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S3-SS 



THE EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL 



Thesis 



LESBIANS AND HORTICULTURE, LESBIANS AND ART: 
HOW WE CAN LIVE PASTORALLY, ETHICALLY, AND CREATIVELY 



By 



PENNY BLANCHETT-RAMSEY 
Bachelor of Arts, The Evergreen State College, 1 988 



Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of 

MASTER OF ARTS IN THEOLOGICAL STUDIES 
IN FEMINIST LIBERATION THEOLOGIES 

1998 



@ Copyright by 

PENNY BLANCHETT-RAMSEY 

1998 



approved by: 



supervisor and faculty reader_ 



Dr. Kwok Pui Lan 



student reader 




student reader 



19. JL* 62 C/2 



&eLAs*4r*> — 



Victoria Pearson 



To my sons: 
Zak, Nick, and Pietro 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION 1 

CHAPTER ONE: Living Pastorally 

Lesbians and Horticulture, Reimagining our Genesis 
Historical and Cultural Practices 

Tools, Symbols, and Seeds 18 

Section 1: Reimagining Our Genesis: Historical and Cultural Practices. . 19 

Section 2: The Principles and Practices of Organic Horticulture and 

Agriculture, and Biodynamic Farming 43 

Section 3: Helen and Scott Nearing 49 

Summary 55 

CHAPTER TWO: Living Ethically 

How We Live Is How We Die, Reimagining Our Death 
Dharma Lesbians and Mindfulness 

Meditation, Action, and Peace 59 

CHAPTER THREE: Living Creatively 

Lesbians and Art, Reimagining Our Form 

Palimpsests and Markings 
Symmetry, Asymmetry, and Spirituality 75 

Section 1 : The Visual Arts: Symmetry and Asymmetry 77 

CONCLUSION 87 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 



INTRODUCTION 



Radical lesbianism is not a 'sexual preference' 
or only "liking to live with women'. It is a 
decisive political choice which is implicit 
in the analysis of sex class relations based 
on exploitation and oppression, and which have 
antagonistic interests. Lesbian political 
commitment is different from the feminism of 
'homosexuals' or 'heterosexuals' because we 
choose to use the margins of freedom, of 
manoeuvre that the patriarchal system leaves 
us, to fight it at its roots... 1 

Questions Feminists 



Human beings are infinitely creative in their 
abilities to reimagine and reinvent what appear 
to be the most immutable aspects of culture and 
biology. 2 

Bruce Bagemihl, 

Surrogate Phonology and Transsexual Faggotry: 

A Linguistic Analogy for Coupling Sexual 

Orientation and Gender Identity 



My thesis is situated within a radical lesbian feminist context. I use this term 
to signify my particular identification as an anatomical female whose gender, sex, 
and politics decenter and resist heterosexual politics and the standard definitions 
of sex and gender. There are, as Bruce Bagemihl argues, gendered pluralities. 
To reimagine and reinvent who we are as individuals is to reimagine and reinvent 
culture and biology. I examine the notions of biological determinism, and argue 



1 Claire Duchen, Feminism in France, From May '68 to Mitterand (London: Routledge and 
KeganPaul, 1986), 23. 

2 Bruce Bagemihl, "Surrogate Phonology and Transsexual Faggotry: A Linguistic Analogy 
for Uncoupling Sexual Orientation from Gender Identity, " in Queerly Phrased: Language, 
Gender, and Sexuality, eds. Anna Livia and Kira Hall (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 
397. 



that one's biological sex, gender, and sexual orientation are separate identities 

and physicalities that can be and are multiple, diverse, and autonomous states of 

being enveloped within the confines of our human body structures. Within a 

queer rubric there exists a multitude of gendered forms and identities: lesbian, 

gay, bi-gender, bi-sexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersexual. A distinction 

is being made between a person's sex and their gender expression. 3 

Boundaries collapse around our Queemess. As Leslie Feinberg points out in 

Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc To Dennis Rodman, 

Today the word transgender has at least two colloquial meanings. It 
has been used as an umbrella term to include everyone who 
challenges the boundaries of sex and gender. It is also used to draw a 
distinction between those who reassign the sex they were labeled at 
birth, and those whose gender expression is considered inappropriate 
for our sex. 4 

Queer or transgender are umbrella terms for all the possibilities and pluralities of 

gender and sex: 

transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites, transgenderists, bigenders, 
drag queens, drag kings, cross-dressers, masculine women, feminine 
men, intersexuals (people referred to in the past as "hermaphrodites"), 
androgynes, cross-benders, shape-shifters, passing women, passing 
men, gender-benders, gender-blenders, bearded women, and women 
bodybuilders who have crossed the line of what is considered socially 
acceptable for a female body. 5 

This queerly, transgendered identification includes not only our physical bodies as 

markings of who we are, but as spiritual beings who are or should be sustained 

by those markings of multiple identities. 



3 Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis 
Rodman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), x. 

4 Ibid., x. 

5 Ibid., x. 



My specific focus is lesbian. My terminology isn't meant to be 
exclusionary, but rather situated within my own radical lesbian feminist context 
and voice. 

I ask that we consider reimagining a transgender genesis: that we write 

and speak a language that marks us simultaneously "masculine" and "feminine"; 

a neutral language we can all bear to speak and hear. I wear my transgender 

markings within my body space, my geography. It explains how I view the world, 

neither as male/female or man/woman, but as "us" and "we", multiple and 

diverse. This is not to say that I don't strongly identify as a female/lesbian, but 

that I project outwardly an ambiguous persona that is transgender. I cross-dress, 

and proudly claim my multiple identities as a transgendered butch lesbian. This is 

my decisive political choice and responsibility as a female who doesn't fit into the 

social constructs of gendered male/female. I'm clearly not trying to be male 

because of my butchness, but rather take a different way, a middle way, or a third 

way. I'm also clear about developing a lesbian language that marks me as a 

butch female who has the courage to openly love other females. My autonomy 

distinguishes me as a political activist, engaged in the struggle for human rights, 

which sets me apart from the rigors of heterosexual normatives. Everything 

about me seethes, simmers, and seeps through my pores as a sensuous butch 

lesbian; sole possessor of my thoughts, actions, and sex. Every gesture is about 

being a lesbian: I'm tough, I have guts, and I love women. Joan Nestle writes in 

her essay, "Butch-Femme Relationships: Sexual Courage in the 1950's: 

Butch-Femme relationships... were complex erotic statements, not 
phony heterosexual replicas. They were filled with a deeply 



Lesbian language of stance, dress, gesture, loving, courage, and 
autonomy. None of the butch women I was with, and this included 
a passing woman, ever presented themselves to me as men; they 
did announce themselves as tabooed women who were willing to 
identify their passion for other women by wearing clothes that 
symbolized the taking of responsibility. 6 



The term "woman" is a cultural construct that male heterosexuals invented to 
keep females within the heterosexual paradigm. We must be careful with its 
meaning and use. It was the radical French lesbian feminist, Monique Wittig who 
so boldly proclaimed in the late 1970's that she wasn't a woman: "I am not a 
woman, I am a Lesbian." 7 Nestle claims that of course she herself is a woman 
but that, "I belong to another geography as well, and the two worlds are 
complicated and unique." 8 I'm complex and unique, strong and viable, I take to 
my autonomy like a duck takes to water. I live and breathe my lesbianism. 

The aim of my thesis is to shake the foundations of lesbian thinking, to call 
lesbians into accountability and responsibility, and to force the issue of how we 
can live pastorally, ethically, and creatively with a genuine lesbian paradigm. Like 
Nestle, I believe "Lesbians are a people, that we live as all people do, affected by 
the economic and social forces of our times." 9 As a people we must record and 
preserve our heritage, culture, and traditions as lesbians who love lesbians and 
lesbians who love women. Yet, we must not become attracted to an ideology that 
espouses a universal, essentialist, hierarchical message. We are but one link in 



6 Joan Nestle, "Butch-Femme Relationships: Sexual Courage in the 1950's," in 
Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology, eds. Gary David Comstock and Susan E. Henking 
(New York: Continuum, 1997), 323. 

7 Ibid., 327. 

8 Ibid., 327. 

9 Ibid., 327. 



the grand scheme of things. We are neither more oppressed, nor hold more 
truths, nor have fewer myths and problems. We are each situated within our own 
space and time, and that is something we had better remember. Autonomy for 
me means autonomy for others. This is what many lesbians and women of color 
have been trying to tell white lesbians and women all along. It's time for us to get 
our heads out of the white lesbian ghetto vacuum and listen to and hear what 
other peoples' languages are saying and doing. 

Why is gender and identity so important to my thesis about horticulture and 
art? I argue that the female body has a diverse, multiple form and function. How 
females have lived in the world has been from a multiple and diverse context. 
Our human form has dictated our ability to be creative and plural in our thinking 
and actions. Lesbians who understand the significance of being transgender, 
ambiguous, and fluid, rather than being what the social and cultural constructs of 
heterosexuals have imprinted upon us, might come to understand the full 
implications of our lives. Economics, laws, politics, religion, education, science, 
gender, art, horticulture, agriculture, and most systems and theories have been 
designed from the notions of a male-mono view. The environment is losing its 
diversity and health, agribusiness is replacing the many small, family farms. 
Lesbians and women are losing their gendered spaces and land. And their art, 
architecture, and aesthetic values are being undermined by multi-national 
corporations and middle-class mediocrity. That the male body isn't as diverse or 
multiple as the female body has been a centuries old debate and source of 
power-over politics and heterosexual domination. The standard for just about 



everything has been invented from the monolithic, single form and function of the 
male body. The dualistic, two-sided system of male/female has completely 
disregarded the variations of numbers and pluralism. There is a middle, a third, 
fourth and other combinations of multiple significant ways of being. How varying 
and creative our economies and politics could be if viewed from a more 
transgendered perspective. My thesis is a view of how we can live pastorally, 
ethically, and creatively from transgendered lesbian bodies, principles, and 
practices. 



LESBIANS AND HORTICULTURE 

Many lesbians have been reclaiming their connection with the earth and 
with horticulture for the past two decades. We farm and garden, living closely 
with nature because we have no interest in being indoors working for an 
employer, and because we feel strong and healthy working outdoors. We cherish 
our independence, our entrepreneurial spirit and ventures, alternative lifestyles, 
and autonomy. We admire self-sufficiency and community. Many lesbians are 
becoming organic and biodynamic farmers. We want to make a contribution to 
society, and we want to live ethical lives. We raise crops and animals, selling our 
produce at local farmer's markets. We are instrumental in developing Community 
Supported Agriculture, and the development of retaining lands in long term land- 
trusts. We are practicing ecologists, we teach classes and workshops, and run 
retreats on how to live mindfully with the earth. We tend to eat lower on the food 
chain. Our economic stability is based more on diversity and multiplicity, than on 



a linear, mono-economic structure which can mean several things: We may have 

to work at several, different jobs to maintain our economic stability, we barter and 

develop other non-monetary economic systems such as sharing goods and labor, 

pooling resources, and we are likely to resist capitalist consumerism. This 

description of rural lesbian life isn't meant to be a romantic, pastoral view. Rural 

lesbian life is often a difficult, semi-subsistence life on the verge of economic 

collapse on any given day. 

As Carolyn Sachs points out in Gendered Fields: Rural Women, 

Agriculture, and Environment, "Lesbians in rural places remain invisible to 

scholars, to other rural people, and to the urban gay and lesbian culture." 10 Rural 

lesbians' lives and experiences are as distinctly different as they are 

geographically distant from the lives of urban and suburban lesbians. Little has 

been recorded about our lives. During the 1970's many lesbians became 

involved in the women's land movement. They wanted to change the patriarchal, 

heterosexual paradigm by creating places and spaces that were safe for women 

and lesbians in which to live and work. Sachs' research shows that, 

Between 1970 and 1990, women initiated at least 80 separate 
women's lands. Although the groups that support the effort vary in 
their politics, they agree on several common principles: Resistance to 
individual ownership of land, nonhierarchical decision making, 
commitment to care and nurturing of the land, and personal and 
spiritual growth. 11 

In 1991 and 1992, Sachs and Laurel Zastrow interviewed 30 women living on 

women's land in 15 states and provinces in the United States and Canada. "Many 



10 Carolyn Sachs, Gendered Fields: Rural Women, Agriculture, and Environment 
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1996), 24. 

11 Ibid., 51. 



8 

of these women articulated a radical vision of the countryside. Identifying 
themselves variously as lesbian-feminists, marxists, anarchists, and feminists, a 
good number of women viewed their efforts as attempts to create nonpatri-archal 
space and preserve the earth." 12 Poverty and economic security were the 
women's major concerns. They were proud of their achievements as architects, 
carpenters, environmentalists, and as creators of safe, sustainable communities 
for women. 

Within this paradigm I support the notion that the role of horticulture is 
necessary for lesbian well-being and social development which is steeped within 
historical, contemporary, and cultural practices. I affirm lesbian rural life and 
culture, and reaffirm women's primal roots and rights as horticulturalists and 
agriculturalists, as scientists and inventors (as Homo Matter. Woman as tool 
maker). I connect horticulture with politics and religion, taking an eco-feminist 
and an engaged Buddhist perspective to broaden the view for lesbian identity 
with the earth and its biosphere. 

I highlight the significance of Third World women subsistence farmers, 
migrant women farm workers, indigenous women's loss of farmland, and the 
African-American women whose blood, sweat, and tears formed the basis of 
Southern slavery and its soil. My location is that of a First World, white lesbian 
who has the utmost respect and regard for the above lesbians' and women's 
dignity and contributions to global economics. Our First World supermarket 
privileges are based upon women of color, women from Third World countries 



12 Ibid., 52. 



who have been exploited by multinational corporations and agribusiness in order 
for First World people to eat, and over eat an abundance and variety of cheap 
food products. I neither appropriate their positions to merely support my thesis, 
nor fetishize their lives. Racism has no place within lesbian ethics. I show 
another language, a genesis, and an ethic which isn't white nor rooted in 
phallogocentricism. Rather, I show a language that these women have 
developed throughout the centuries, which is being rapidly stolen from them. 
Their gendered spaces and geographies are disappearing. Their knowledge, 
wisdom, and spirituality, their femaleness, histories, and stories are being taken 
over by greedy people and multinational corporations. 



MY BACKGROUND 

My socio-economic/geographic location is rural, self-employed and 
underemployed, and the first in my family to receive a college education. I'm a 
visual artist, and an engaged Buddhist, with a background in organic, sustainable 
agriculture, renewable energy, and ecology. 



BUDDHISM 

The term "engaged Buddhism" was coined by the Vietnamese Zen Master 
Thich Nhat Hanh in 1963 during the escalation of war in his homeland. Many 
Asian and Western Buddhists have been socially and politically engaged through 
Buddhist teachings, community activism, and through liberation movements that 
serve to help relieve suffering in the world and bring about a sense of well-being 



10 

in the forms of peace, freedom, and justice on local and universal levels. I'm a 
Buddhist because I take refuge in the Buddha (a symbol of enlightenment), the 
Dharma (truth, teachings, or the Way), and the Sangha (a practicing Buddhist 
community). I'm an engaged Buddhist because I practice Buddhism as a 
sustainable socio-political, spiritual, economic, ecological and lesbian liberation 
movement. 

What distinguishes engaged Buddhism from Christian liberation theologies 
and movements is as Christopher S. Queen argues in Engaged Buddhism: 
Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, "The cultural particularism in liberation 
theologies - does not match (despite obvious local elements) the pervasive 
universalism of engaged Buddhism." 13 The motivation behind engaged Buddhism 
is "inner peace and world peace." 14 A universal Buddhist language is expressed, 
not unlike the ecumenical or inclusive language used in trying to unite Christians 
with peoples of other faiths and traditions. Engaged Buddhism is a shift from the 
transmundane (beyond the world) to the mundane (of the world). 15 Another 
distinguishing factor that Queen stresses is the avoidance of "language that 
would restrict the membership of liberation movements to those persons who are 
objectively oppressed, disadvantaged, or marginalized - or who regard 
themselves as such." 16 There is no hierarchy of suffering in Buddhism, but 
rather, situated suffering. This paradigm helps us to follow a "middle way" or a 



13 Christopher S. Queen, Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, 
eds. Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King (Albany: State University of New York Press, 
1996), 5. 

14 Ibid., 5. 

15 Ibid., 11. 

16 Ibid., 10. 



11 

"third way", keeping to the notion of inner peace and world peace. The whole 
point of Buddhism is to alleviate and end suffering for everyone. Engaged 
Buddhists align themselves with the people or a person who are/is suffering, not 
with any particular political agenda or side. We are all interconnected, and 
anyone at any time can be oppressed, disadvantaged, or marginalized. 



HETERONORMATIVES 

By reimagining our lesbian genesis, we can begin to radically resist 
heterosexual politics and other heteronormative by-products which marginalize, 
exclude, and/or weaken us visibly and audibly. It is my contention, then, that 
heteronormative by-products can be both patriarchal and matriarchal projections 
of a socio-religious myth which has served to privilege heterosexuals and their 
politics. 

Heteronormative by-products include the following: labor and monopoly 
capitalism, religion and theology, the Democratic and Republican parties 
ownership of American politics, liberal and conservative dogma, the cult of 
consumerist society, the concentration of wealth and land in the hands of a 
minority, the feminization of poverty, the excess of power and privilege of 
multinational corporations, the degradation of the environment, colonialism, 
slavery, prostitution, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, sexism, 
ageism, genocide, and homo-lesbophobia. These by-products in turn, are the by- 
products of greed and creed, ignorance and folly, insanity and rape, exploitation 
and fear, science and technology without ethics or conscience, and an account of 



12 

historical events selectively altered to meet patriarchal, heterosexual bias, 
prejudice, and fabricated forms of justice. What has served to bolster the socio- 
religious myth, and the myths surrounding the constructs and notions of family, 
gender, sexuality, male/female, man/woman are all tailored according to the 
power structure of heterosexual politics. This is a power structure that has 
defined itself as a finality of order, truth, and authority. The heterosexuals 
worship of, and obedience to, their socio-economic institutions, theories, and 
practices have defined and categorized human beings into "them and those," and 
the "other." Treating human beings as abstract objects, paved the way to do so 
with the earth and its biosphere. The biosphere, its sentient and insentient 
beings, have been viewed as the "other," as commodities to be exploited. 

It is also my contention that heteronormative by-products are entrenched 
within the Lesbian psychosexual ecology. Resisting and shifting away from the 
heteronormal model is how lesbians can reimagine our genesis, form and 
spirituality, and develop our own language and space. This creative act can 
prevent us from believing that heterosexuals should be our models, that they hold 
the key to civilization, culture, politics, economics, reason, ethics, morals, history, 
and religion. Once we are "out" as lesbians there should be no continuance or 
adoption of heterosexual politics. Although we live in a society and culture which 
functions almost exclusively within heteronormative relations we can strive to 
resist relations and behaviors that maintain strict adherence to a corrupt and 
blinding system. 



13 

The heart of my methodology and epistomology, ethics, and politics are 
influenced by the radical French feminists Luce Irigaray and Monique Wittig. 
They write a new consciousness; an awareness of body imagery, and its 
fundamental shaping of social order. They write a new language, which makes 
the connection between philosophy and politics, making language a process 
rather than a structure. 17 Irigaray and Wittig are radical resistors of the 
phallogocentric Oedipus complex, Western, Judeo-Christian perspectives and 
symbolism. Irigaray explains, "Acknowledgment of a 'specific' feminine sexuality 
disturbs the monopoly over values that the masculine sex has - that the father 
has; what meaning could the Oedipus complex have in a symbolic system other 
than patriarchy?" 18 The Oedipus complex has been to the height of Freudian 
heterosexual myth, fantasy, and stupidity and stayed there. 

A son, Oedipus, realizes that he can't have his mother as a sex object. 
She belongs to his all powerful, omnipotent father. Oedipus, in his heterosexual 
delusion, actually fears his father because his father's penis and everything 
symbolically attached to this magnificent phallus of politics, language, and the 
"Word" of God (phallus + logo = phallogocentricism: the language of the penis), is 
so much larger than the son's puny penis. Oedipus naturally feels inadequate, 
and becomes further enmeshed in the heterosexual paradigm when he finally 
realizes that his mother doesn't have a penis. Therefore, castration anxiety is 
internalized by Oedipus because of his strong obsession with his mother who has 
a vagina rather than the powerful penis. Oedipus feels castrated. He hates his 



17 Ibid., Duchen, 97. 

18 Ibid, 89. 



14 

mother, and spends his entire life allied with his father because they both have 

penises. Competition ensues. Whomever has the biggest phallic symbol is the 

most powerful. Irigaray points out that, 

the little boy will never cease to desire his mother... Oedipus will have 
all the mothers he wants, all the laws in his favor, and the right to look 
at anything... all, or most, mothers, laws, views (or at any rate points of 
view). Oedipus will be rich and have no complexes about it. All he 
has given up is the desire for a woman, for a woman's sex/organ 
because in any case that had no value. 19 

Yet, Oedipus continues to be obsessed with his mother, searching for her, 
pushing her away, hating her, and abusing her. In doing so he actually strikes- 
out against other women. 

Yet, as Emma Perez writes in her essay, Sexuality and Discourse: Notes 
From a Chicana Survivor, "when white feminists ardently insist upon discussing 
machismo, they impose phallocratic discourse. By 'centering' and 'focusing' upon 
the phallus, they deflect from their racism. This evasion is both racist and 

20 

heterosexist." Those three sentences have been my mantra while writing this 
thesis. My thesis is centered around calling lesbians into accountability and 
responsibility, to recognize our learned racism and heterosexism as a function of 
white phallic privilege. This is a privilege we need not adopt or practice, but 
rather identify, discard, and replace with a lesbian genesis and ethic. 

Monique Wittig argues that the term "woman" is only in relation to 
heterosexual men. She sees the role of feminists as being in solidarity with 



19 Ibid., 50. 

20 

Emma Perez, "Sexuality and Discourse: Notes from a Chicana Survivor" in Chicana 
Critical Issues, eds. Norma Alargon Rafaela Castro, Emma Perez, Beatriz Pesquera, Adaljiza 
Sosa Riddell, and Patricia Zavella (Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1993), 49. 



15 

women, as advocates and allies within our gendered socio-economic class. 

"Woman" is our class, our gendered, sexual, socio-economic class. The feminist 

purpose is to get rid of that classification. This would mean the collapse of the 

socio-economic system of heterosexuality. For Wittig, lesbians aren't women 

because they're outside of heterosexual politics. 21 

It was Audre Lorde who portrayed "difference", the multiplicity and diversity 

of African-American lesbian bodies and geographies when she wrote: 

Being women together was not enough. We were 
different. Being gay-girls together was not enough. 
We were different. Being Black together was not 
enough. We were different. Being Black women 
together was not enough. We were different. Being 
Black dykes together was not enough. We were 
different... It was a while before we came to realize 
that our place was the very house of difference rather 
than the security of any one particular difference. 22 

I have been influenced by Donna Haraway and her construct of situated 
knowledge. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, she writes, "Feminist objectivity is 
about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and 
splitting of subject and object. In this way we might become answerable for what 
we learn how to see." 23 There is no room for relativism within this construct, but 
rather a partially located knowledge that can sustain rational, objective inquiry. 
This is an argument for "contestation, deconstruction, passionate construction, 
webbed connections, and hope for transformation of systems of knowledge and 



1 Donna J. Haraway, Simians Cyborgs, and Women : The Reinvention of Nature ( New 
York: Routledge, 1991), 138. 

22 Ibid., 138-9. 

23 Ibid., 190. 



16 

ways of seeing." 24 As I have stated earlier, situated knowledge is a way of 
keeping tabs on the notions of universalism and essentialism. It helps ground us 
in a particular realm of thought and experience. It helps us to hear and see the 
other person, to realize and feel our interconnection and to celebrate our 
separateness as diverse pieces of the puzzle. It helps, I think, to at least respect 
each other, with all of our flaws, our process of learning to unlearn, our 
enlightenments, and our learning all over again. 

An important aspect of my thesis is praxis. I use Helen and Scott 
Nearing, the quintessential organic farmers as a model for right livelihood. Their 
books, Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life were instrumental in 
changing the lives of many people who wished to live as self-sufficiently as they 
possibly could. The Nearings were and are one of the guiding forces in my 
philosophical and practical development concerning socio-economic policies, and 
organic, sustainable homesteading. 

The title of Chapter One is, "Living Pastorally: Lesbians and Horticulture, 
Reimagining Our Genesis, Historical and Cultural Practices, Tools, Symbols, and 
Seeds." My rubric is a pattern, a practice, and a language. It is a tool and 
symbol for how lesbians can live. Using a creative point of departure, I have 
constructed a lesbian language and lesbian space that serves to identify an ethic, 
a philosophy, a form, and a spirituality. 

The title of Chapter Two is, "Living Ethically: How We Live Is How We Die, 
Reimagining Our Death, Dharma Lesbians and Mindfulness, Meditation, Action, 



24 Ibid., 192-93. 



17 

and Peace." This rubric is a matrix for engaged Buddhism. It involves the notion 
that lesbians do/will have a voice and presence within Buddhism, that lesbians 
are Buddhas, Dharma dykes, and that lesbian Sanghas will be designed and 
developed as religious, political, socio-economic, and environmental liberation 
movements. 

The title of Chapter Three is, "Living Creatively: Lesbians and Art, 
Reimagining Our Form, Palimpsests and Markings, Symmetry, Asymmetry, and 
Spirituality." This rubric serves to identify lesbian forms, designs, and 
monuments, to deepen our awareness of the cult of mediocrity, and to look at the 
shapes, meanings, and values of our artifacts, archetypes, and art through a 
pattern language. 

I want to clarify my position as a radical lesbian feminist writing about men 
and heterosexual politics. In no way do I espouse separatism from people who 
do not identify as lesbian, transgender or queer. Heterosexuals and men have 
had moments in history which astound, fascinate, and sustain me socially, 
culturally, politically, theologically, and spiritually. Many heterosexuals and men 
have radically resisted heterosexual politics and norms. 

Reimagining our genesis is acknowledging that we have no idea how 
many horticulturalists, agriculturalists, artists, architects, inventors of tools and 
food technology were lesbian. Lesbian feminist research and scholarship is sadly 
lacking in this area of our history, culture, tradition, and our current presence. But 
we do know that we have been on earth, everywhere, since the beginning of 
human form. We exist now, and we existed then. We really aren't invisible. 



CHAPTER ONE 

LIVING PASTORALLY 

LESBIANS AND HORTICULTURE, REIMAGINING OUR GENESIS 
HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL PRACTICES 
TOOLS, SYMBOLS, AND SEEDS 

We do need an earth-wide network of connections, 
including the ability partially to translate 
knowledges among very different - and power- 
differentiated - communities. We need the power 
of modern critical theories of how meanings and 
bodies get made, but in order to live in meanings 
and bodies that have a chance for a future. 25 
Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women 

We are all of woman made. 26 

Susan Griffin, Split Culture 

This chapter is concerned with living pastorally. How can lesbians live their 
daily lives mindfully? How are our markings as lesbian individuals and as 
lesbians in relation with others going to signify and stamp our culture, history, and 
heritage as a politics of difference and a different politics? 27 How do we go about 
resisting phallogocentricism and its by-product heterosexism while we develop 
our own traditions, forms of spirituality, ecology, economics, language, and 
lesbian space? How we live is very much connected with how we die. And how 
we have lived has everything to do with who we are now. In her essay on 
ecology, Split Culture, Susan Griffin writes, "How can we know our own death if 



25 Ibid., 187. 



Susan Griffin, "Split Culture," in Readings in Ecology and Feminist Theology, eds. Mary 
Heather MacKinnon and Moni Mclntyre (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1995), 94. 



27 Ibid., 103. 



18 



19 

28 

we do not know our own existence?" Horticulture is the link between life and 
death since we first became human forms. "How meaning and bodies get made" 
has everything to do with horticulture and with lesbians. 



REIMAGINING OUR GENESIS. HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL PRACTICES 

Horticulture was more than likely an extension of the female-gatherers 
cultural practices in the Paleolithic age. The shift from gathering food to the 
knowledge and practice of intentional planting, was done through process, not by 
a definitive discovery. There was no giant linear leap from gathering food to the 
cultural practice of horticulture. It was an on-going cyclical process of 
accumulated skills, knowledge, and wisdom handed from mother to daughter; 
female to female. How we feed ourselves is how we view nature and our bodies. 
By the Neolithic era, females were already informed by the connection between 
how their bodies produced life and how nature produced life. Neolithic females 
were experts in seed germination, plant propagation, seed and plant diversity, soil 

29 

science, irrigation, fertilization, and crop rotation. They knew when and where 
to practice farming, so they knew something about climate and geological 
indications. They also knew something about the connection between the earth 
and other planets. Knowledge of cosmic rhythms, lunar and seasonal planting 
had much to do with their continued success as horticulturalists and 
agriculturalists. 30 



28 lbid., 94. 

29 Hilda Scott, Working Your Way to the Bottom: The Feminization of Poverty, (London: 
Pandora Press, 1984), 96. 

30 Ibid., 96. 



20 

Females were also the inventors of tools and food technology: the digging 
stick, carrying bag, sickle, grindstone, food storage containers, winnowing, grain 
roasting, and food preservation. They also invented the hoe, the spade and 
scratch plough. And they developed baskets, grain hullers and detoxification 
methods to remove bitterness from the grains. The eight most important cereals 
were domesticated during the Neolithic era. Some scholars believe that females 
invented the crank for rotary hand grinder mills. 31 

These females' relation with nature is predicated, I believe, on the notion 
that they could imitate nature because they are nature. All humans are nature. 
Our bodies are made of the same matter that we eat and breathe. The word 
human is taken from humus, which means: earth, ground, soil; the organic part of 
the soil. In the Book of Genesis our human form is shaped from humus; organic 
matter. We are nature. To reimagine our genesis is not to go back in time, to 
appropriate or worship prehistoric women, but to go beyond the memory, to make 
it both present and future. 

There was a reciprocal process between females and nature. Female's 
development of horticulture and the invention of tools was a productive 
relationship with nature. This, according to Maria Mies, in Women: The Last 
Colony, was what made females the inventors of the first "production-society." 3 ' 

Productivity is the capacity to produce and reproduce life in an historical 
process. Through their relation with nature, their relationships with their children 
and with other females, and their relation with tools and productivity, each served 



31 Ibid., 96. 

32 Ibid., Mies, 76. 



21 

to socially and historically define females, their bodies, and nature as an organic 

spiritual whole. Mies states, "Women of all times will be the producers of new 

women and men and that without this production all other forms and modes of 

production lose their sense." 33 

Mies defines females' human relation to nature as "praxis, that is 

action+reflection, it becomes visible only in the historical process, and it implies 

social interaction or co-operation." 34 This praxis which Neolithic females defined 

and developed for themselves gave them the ability to conceive and perceive of a 

future, and to pass on their cultural practices from generation to generation. They 

had the foresight to "plan for tomorrow, anticipate the future, to learn from one 

another, to pass on knowledge, learn from past experiences, or, in other words, 

constitute history." 35 Neolithic females had also developed a language and 

conversation based on the interconnection of nature with and to their own lives. 

According to Joanna Macy in her essay on Buddhism, The Ecological Self: 

Postmodern Ground for Right Action: 

Wisdom {prajna) arises, reflected and generated by the 
teachings about self and reality. Practice {dhyana) 
liberates through precise attention to the elements and 
flow of one's existential experience - an experience 
which reveals no separate experience, no permanent 
self. 36 



33 Ibid., 78. 

34 Ibid, 73. 

35 Ibid., 76. 

36 Joanna Macy, "The Ecological Self: Postmodern Ground for Right Action," in Readings 
in Ecology and Feminist Theology, eds., Mary Heather MacKinnon and Moni Mclntyre (Kansas 
City: Sheed and Ward, 1995), 264. 



22 

Along with wisdom and practice comes moral behavior (sila), a praxis 
which is based on the Buddhist precepts of non-violence, truthfulness, and 
generosity. Macy says that these qualities, "Helps free one from the dictates of 
greed, aversion, and other reactions which reinforce the delusion of separate self- 
hood." 3 ' Females had to have understood this concept in order to survive, to 
have their children survive. Co-operation and healthy social relations can't last if 
violence and the notion of a separate self define a society or social order. Which 
is precisely the course males chose to take. 

As horticulturalists, Neolithic females had gained wisdom through their 
social, historical, and cultural practices of teaching about self and reality, which 
for them was nature. They practiced their wisdom which is one form of 
spirituality, by paying attention to their bodies and their experiences while in 
relation with and to nature. Females knew that they had no separate self, no 
separate experience outside of nature. They had no concept of a permanent self, 
because nature isn't permanent. Horticulturalists know about impermanence, 
death and dying, through their observations of nature's cycles. 

In contrast, certain male cultural practices and their relation to nature 
weren't reciprocal. Mies writes, "They cannot experience their own bodies as 
being productive in the same way that women can. Male bodily productivity 
cannot appear as such without the mediation of external means, of tools, 
whereas woman's can... without tools man is no MAN." 38 This is where phallicism 
and its by-product, patriarchy, begin to occur. Phallic symbolism shifts the 



37 Ibid., 264. 

38 Ibid., Mies, 77. 



23 

dynamics of humanity away from nature as self to self outside of nature. Males' 
relationship to nature was external. Their tools were designed for hunting, tools 
of destruction rather than tools for production. These tools, or weapons, were 
also used against other humans. Males exploited nature by appropriating it, 
especially concerning their relation to animals. Animals were killed in order to 
supplement their diet and to provide clothing and other articles of need. Later, 
animals were domesticated and used as a commodity product. Many scholars 
believe that male hunting practices were negligible, and that they had to rely on 
the steady subsistence and surplus of grains and vegetables with which females 
supplied them. Iroquois females would withhold corn and moccasins from males 
when they wanted to prevent them from raiding other peoples or going to war. If 
they refused to give the males food supplies, the males had to stay home. 39 

There is evidence that particular males had a deep reverence for animals. 
The cave paintings at Lascaux in France portray Upper Paleolithic man at one of 
his finest moments in history. The careful, concise, and conscious reverence of 
animals is clearly recorded on the walls of the cave. It is here that males were 
producers of a deeply symbolic relation with nature and animals. These hunter- 
artists were in right relation with their own bodies, and in relation with the bodies 
of the animals they had to kill. 40 In India during the Indus Valley culture, at 
Mohenjo-Daro, intaglio steatite seals depicting animals such as bulls, water 
buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephants are sensuously symbolized as deities and 



39 Ibid., 77. 

40 Horst de la Croix and Richard G. Tansey, revs., Gardener's Art Through the Ages 
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1 980), 26-7. 



24 

gods. 41 During the Neolithic Shang dynasty in China, ritual bronze vessels have 
zoomorphic motifs of animals. Tigers, sheep, fish, birds and other animals are 
integral parts of the sculptured vessels. The bodies of the animals take-on a life 
and meaning of their own. "These vessels were not only ritual containers but, 
also, in their very form and decoration, a kind of sculptural icon or visualization of 
the early Chinese attitude toward the powers of nature." 42 Other pre-historic male 
cultures from nearly every region in the world have recorded their spiritual links 
with animals and the cosmos as petroglyphic markings and drawings. 

The distinction between females living in nature, as nature, as co-creators 
and co-producers with nature, eroded into a sick myth that portrayed women as 
nature to be exploited. Males began to make external connections through 
analogies between "penis and plough, seed and semen, field and women." 43 
Horticulture was no longer the intentional, subsistence planting and care of food. 
Horticulture was sexualized, and so were animals. The rape of females, the use 
of females sexually, females as slaves, females as property, females as 
economic sources was and is designed to keep males and heterosexuals in 
power. I believe that males sexualized and eroticized nature, females, and 
animals while they were learning how to domesticate and breed animals. 
Breeding animals was probably how males realized their own reproductive 
capacity. The pastoralists found that one bull could impregnate many cows. This 
could have led the males to castrate or cull the weaker animals. Breeding 



41 Ibid., 358. 

42 Ibid., 379. 

43 Ibid., Mies, 77. 



25 

animals became a systemized science, keeping a stud bull ready to impregnate 
cows when needed. Mies states, "Female animals were thus subjected to sexual 
coercion. This means, the free sexuality of wild animals was subjected to a 
coerced economy, based on breeding, with the object of increasing herds." 44 
This is one way to view how and why men came to sexualize and exploit nature 
and women. 

Phallogocentricism runs global politics and the economy. Gendered and 
sexualized structural systems have situated women, lesbians in particular, and 
Third World women, women of color especially, within an ideological framework 
predicated on the notion that biology and politics are one and the same. Male 
biology has been perceived and defined as being superior to female biology, 
being superior to nature, to the earth and its biosphere, and to animals. This 
asymmetrical paradigm of arrogance is constructed on and from the bodies of 
women. Luce Irigaray makes the connection between economies and bodies. 
She states, "Women don't have one sex organ. They have at least two, which 
can't be identified singly. Actually women have many more than that. Their 
sexuality, always at least double, is p/i;ra//multiple." 45 Otherness, alterity, are 
already within our physiological or psychosexual make-up. Women are already 
otherness within this multiplicity matrix. In Feminism in France, Claire Duchen 
gives a French feminist perspective, "Whereas the phallic libidinal economy is 
described by feminists as unitary, linear and teleological and therefore unable to 



44 ibid, 83. 

45 Ibid., Duchen, 90. 



26 

a a 

think alterity, the feminine is plural, circular (concentric) without goals." This 

isn't restricted to sexuality, it extends to all forms of social relations, 

organizations, and expressions, which are all defined from heterosexual politics. 

Our bodies, lesbian and women's, are sexually self-sufficient, we don't 

have to depend on the penis for pleasure. Claire Duchen expressed Irigaray's 

and other French feminist's philosophy this way: 

New language, new sexuality, new meanings: it is all 
of the same struggle against the monopoly of the 
phallic. The feminine libidinal economy, unlike 
masculinity, is not based on possession, on trading. 
In female homosexuality, or auto-eroticism alone 
can the feminine libidinal economy be exposed. 4 

How this knowledge becomes situated for lesbians and horticulture is a significant 

factor in our reimagining process. Unlike the genesis creation story in Hebrew 

scripture, which metaphorically took six days, our genesis and metaphors have 

never been established. Our beginning form as lesbians was denied. There are 

no metaphors, just stereotypes. 

It is interesting to note that some Native American tribes had the concept 

of the separateness between gender or sexual roles and biological sex. Lesbian, 

homosexual, bi-sexual, and transgender identities were accepted by a wide range 

of tribal nations. Within certain Plains tribes, men who lived as women were 

known as berdaches, a name French explorers used to describe male Native 

Americans who were transgender: males who had sexual relationships with other 

males, and took on all duties and work traditionally performed by females. Many 



46 Ibid., 90. 

47 Ibid., 91. 



27 

Native Americans prefer to use their own indigenous term, "Two-Spirit," rather 

than the colonized language berdache. Some females were also considered to 

be Two-Spirited people. Through special tribal rituals, women could live as men. 

This meant taking on all labor and sexual roles. Women married women, and 

they parented children. Woman Chief, who was a great warrior and hunter, and 

held the position of third chief in her nation, had four wives. Mohave lesbians 

were known as hwame. They could practice hunting, riding, and other male 

activities, and they could be married to other women. The Navajos have a myth 

that depicts homosexuals as wealthy. Navajo Lesbians were considered valuable 

assets to their family and tribe. If Canadian Kaska parents had more daughters 

than sons, a daughter would be encouraged to become a man and marry another 

woman. 48 Some Lesbians haven't been denied their genesis. 

As we begin the process of reimagining our genesis, we must first 

recognize that a First World, United States lesbian context is based upon the 

bodies of Third World women, indigenous women, migrant women farm workers, 

and African-American women. Rosemary Radford Ruether brings this point 

home: 

Psycho-spiritual reconnecting with women's bodies 
and nature can become a recreational self-indulgence 
for a privileged counter-cultural Northern elite if 
these are the only ideas and practices of ecofeminists; 
if the healing of our bodies and our imaginations as 
Euro-Americans is not connected with the following 
realities of over-consumerism and waste... 49 



48 Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei, Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic 



History of Women in the United States (Boston: South End Press, 1991 ), 36-7. 

49 Rosemary Radford Ruether, ed., Women Healing Earth: Third Work 

Ecology, Feminism, and Religion (Maryknoll, Newyork: Orbis Books, 1996), 5. 



28 

Ruether goes on to state that just 20 percent of the world's population "enjoys" 
82 percent of the worlds wealth. The other 80 percent "scrapes along" with 1 8 
percent. The poorest 20 percent of the world's population, "over a billion people - 
disproportionately women and children - starve and die early from poisoned 
waters, soil, and air." 50 Therefore, to be a lesbian feminist, an eco-feminist, and 
engaged Buddhist from my social context means that I must uncover what is 
covered-up by heterosexual politics: the exclusion and expulsion of lesbians and 
women from their own gendered and sexual spaces and economies. 

One percent of the world's land is owned by women, yet women produce 
over 50 percent of the world's food. 51 In sub-Saharan Africa more than 80 
percent of the people's food is produced by women, and between 50 to 60 
percent of the food in Asia is produced by women. This predicament excludes 
women's access to capital, credit, and other necessary resources. Seventy-five 
percent of rural peoples are landless or near landless in Bolivia, Guatemala, 
Indonesia, El Salvador, the Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Peru, 
and many other Asian and Latin American countries. Men are the primary land 
holders. In Cuba, 25 percent of the farmland is owned by women, 12 percent in 
Mexico, 6 percent in Nicaragua, and 4 percent in Honduras. 52 If you are a woman 
of color and a lesbian your position in farming and rural politics is twice negated. 
Privatization, consolidation, and degradation of the land causes rural women to 
shift from subsistence farming, that is, feeding themselves and their family 



50 Ibid., 5. 

51 H. Patricia Hynes, A Patch of Eden: America's Inner-City Gardeners (White River 



Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1996), 155. 
52 Ibid, 55. 



29 

adequately, to working as hired agricultural workers, as indentured workers, or 

migrating to over-populated cities hoping to find employment. Women who are 

displaced from their land or who are ignored by public policy makers in land 

reform movements, lose their positions as scientists, agriculturalists and 

horticulturalists, inventors, and cultural and ecological preservationists of food 

technology, nature's diversity, multi-cropping, global food supplies, animal 

welfare, and social stability. As H. Patricia Hynes writes in her book, A Patch of 

Eden America's Inner-City Gardeners, 

They identify, collect, cultivate, and conserve 
large numbers of plant and animal species. 
Yet the value of this work, like that of 
community gardening, is generally not counted 
in the economy because such work is unpaid and 
not market-based; nor is it recorded in 
environmental history because it is considered 
the minor, insignificant work of many "ordinary" 
women and not the major heroic drama of the rare 
Great Man... 53 

The "major heroic drama of the rare Great Man" harkens back to the story of 

Oedipus and Luce Irigaray's view that Oedipus will justify his wealth, laws, and 

views without having any complexes about them. 

Lesbian's, women's, and children's lives are seriously affected by the 

environmental crisis. As Rosemary Radford Ruether points out, the poisoning of 

water, soil, and air are commonplace in Third World countries. Much of the crisis 

is caused by harmful agricultural practices. Fertilizers, petroleum products, 

irrigation, biogenetics, and pesticides are all culprits in the degradation of 

farmland and surrounding land, and cultural and social well-being. Loss of topsoil 



53 Ibid., 155. 



30 

and fertility leave the soil depleted and sterile. Cultivation practices which scar 
and expose the soil, rather than help to retain organic matter, nutrients, and 
microbiotic life can and do make future planting of crops unsuccessful. Loss of 
grazing land, deforestation, and salinization add to the problems. 

The invention which changed the course of women's farming systems was 
the plough. This is a man's tool, and it causes soil erosion. 54 Women's 
horticultural and agricultural methods were/are replaced by large-scale heavy 
machinery. It was the use of tractors and other farm equipment that compacted 
the soil and caused over cultivation and erosion, which led to the Dust Bowl of 
the 1930's in the United States. 55 In contrast, agricultural practices that have 
been developed by lesbians and women in many regions of the world are marked 
by their appropriateness to their region's climate, soil, and socio-economic make- 
up. As Caroline Sachs argues, 

many of the agricultural strategies historically used by women in 
various parts of the world, such as limited tillage, intercropping, and 
fallow agriculture, are currently being introduced as sustainable 
agricultural practices. Women's marginalization or exclusion from 
capital intensive agriculture and large-scale landholding encouraged 
them to develop particular forms of labor-saving and land-intensive 
practices. 56 

Gendered knowledge, lesbians and women's knowledge, as situated within 

subsistence and sustainable farming practices, is an important aspect of our 

historical and cultural heritage. Our marginalization and exclusion from land and 

capital have furthered our development of necessary survival skills, which have 



54 Ibid., Sachs, 57. 

55 Ibid., 57. 

56 Ibid., 58-9. 



31 

included being caretakers of the earth and its biosphere. Agribusiness and multi- 
national corporations have undermined our gendered knowledge and space, 
forcing us to live with hazardous wastes, pollution, and loss of land and livelihood. 

Animal wastes in feedlots and chemical fertilizers are heavy carriers of 
nitrogen. Nitrogen contaminates groundwater. Lactating women and infants are 
seriously harmed by the build-up of nitrates in water supplies. Third World 
women spend half their day and lifetimes looking for safe sources of water to 
drink and in which to wash, and cook their meals. Trying to provide safe water 
for their families, carrying heavy containers by hand for miles and hours at a time 
only to become ill, or have a child become ill, because their water supply was 
contaminated with high levels of nitrates is what many Third World lesbians and 
women have to live with on a continual basis. While we in the First World go to 
the supermarket and purchase foods from around the world, we must remember 
those who have become ill or died so that we may eat. I ask everyone to 
remember the many lesbians and women who were/are displaced from their land, 
subsequently unable to feed themselves or their families while we eat tropical 
fruits in January, sip our coffee each morning, and landscape our yards with 
ornamental trees and plants. 

Mono-culture, hybrid breeding, and planting of hybrid crops lead to the 
indiscriminate use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Nearly 4.4 million 
tons of pesticides are applied annually, with a market value of $20 billion. 57 
Pesticide related illnesses stem from toxic organophosphates. Although these 



57 Ibid., 59. 



32 

phosphates were created to replace the use of DDT and its concentrated toxicity 
in the environment, the new breed of toxins work their way quickly through the 
environment, and since they have short-lived toxic lives, it is their initial punch 
that harms humans. Third World peoples and farmworkers of color in the United 
States have high rates of acute and chronic pesticide poisoning. 58 It appears that 
pesticides are the leading causes of birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer 
among farmworkers and their families. 

Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez organized the United Farm Workers in 
the 1 960's. They led hunger strikes and the great grape boycott. From a lesbian 
and women's perspective, Huerta was instrumental in making the farm issues 
women- related. As consumers, women have considerable clout when they 
boycott certain food products and supermarkets in solidarity with women and 
children of color who suffer from the affects of pesticide and nitrate poisoning. 

The shift from female to male farming systems occured with the invention 
of the plough. As this gender shift in division of labor occured, appropriation of 
land and capital in the hands of males also occured. However, divisions of labor 
in agriculture vary according to region, race, cultural practices, and class. Sachs 
shows the differences between male crops and female crops, "Men's crops are 
more likely to be of the following types: grain or tree; nonfood; raised for market; 
and raised for export. Women's crops are typically of this sort: vegetable or root; 
food; raised for subsistence; or raised for local consumption." 59 Exceptions to 
these catagories clearly exist. For example, Sachs also writes: "Maize or rice are 



58 Ibid., 60. 

59 Ibid, 68. 



33 

women's crops, women raise crops primarily for the market, or crops do not 
belong to one gender or the other." 60 The point being, that lesbians and women 
contribute significantly to global food production, and they appear to be 
concerned with subsistence and local market farming, not large-scale truck 
farming. Although, if lesbians and women were given the necessary support of 
resources, capital, and credit, the shape of agriculture may evolve into an entirely 
different practice and culture. Common farmland, pea-patches, appropriate 
technology, biodiversity, multi-cropping, and organic, sustainable agriculture could 
very well be the norm, rather than a fashion. Taking this into consideration, we 
must ask why it is that lesbians and women can't have farmland or garden space 
to provide for their own annual food supply and provide a source of income from 
market gardening? 

Cash-crop production as a mono-crop practice severely disrupts the 
viability of the soil and socio-economic stability of individuals, families, villages, 
and entire regions. Farmers who don't raise edible food crops which sustain and 
nourish people, in favor of growing luxury and non-edible crops, gamble with the 
security of life. In their essay, "Gendered Visions For Survival: Semi-Arid 
Regions in Kenya," Esther Wangari, Barbara Thomas-Slayter, and Dianne 
Rocheleau argue that in the Embu and Machakos districts of Eastern Province in 
Kenya, "The privatization of land, the introduction of cash crops, low commodity 
prices, and the lack of social services due to structural adjustment programs have 
left many people landless, hungry, and poor. These misguided programs have 



60 Ibid., 68. 



34 

developed into a source of social disintegration and environmental degradation. 61 
In response to these agricultural programs and in trying to compensate for the 
socio-economic depressions, policies and farming failures, farmers in Machakos 
try to grow coffee or cotton, and in Embu they try to grow cotton and tobacco. In 
trying to send their children to school and modernize their lives according to First 
World standards, farmer's gamble on their luxury crops. In these districts the soil 
is poor, and its structure and composition isn't meant for these particular luxury 
cash-crops. To add to the high stakes and risks involved, the market prices for 
those commercial crops aren't set by the regional markets or in Nairobi, but rather 
by the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) in Geneva. 62 If a 
drought occurs in Brazil, or civil unrest occurs in Columbia, or policies concerning 
tobacco farmers in the United States change, the livelihood of the Kenyan farmer 
is critically affected. "Returns on Kenyan cash crops vary based on events taking 
place far away and well beyond the control of farmers. Many women farmers 
have responded by shifting to alternative crops such as citrus, papaya and other 
fruits, and green vegetables for the national market." 63 Lesbians and women 
have sound, sustainable strategies for survival. As Wangari, Thomas-Slayter, 
and Rocheleau state, "Gendered knowledge plays a major role in farming, 
resource management, and survival of droughts and famines in the semi-arid 



61 Esther Wangari, Barbara Thomas-Slayter, and Dianne Rocheleau, "Gendered Visions 
for Survival: Semi-arid regions in Kenya," in Feminist Political Ecology: Global Issues and Local 
Experiences, eds. Esther Wangari, Barbara Thomas-Slayter, and Dianne Rocheleau (London: 
Routledge, 1996), 128. 

^ 2 Ibid., 129. 

63 Ibid., 129. 



35 

farming communities of Eastern and Central Kenya." 64 Although, in sub-Saharan 
Africa they are the major producers of food, their knowledge and skills aren't 
valued by governmental agencies, policies, or Western science. By not 
recognizing gendered knowledge and practices, by promoting policies which deny 
lesbians and women their visibility and language, the division of labor between 
males and females continues to impact the earth, its biosphere, socio-economic 
stability, and spiritual security for all of humanity. The feminization of poverty, 
famine, and death is directly linked to Western sciences, white patriarchy, and 
heterosexual politics and by-products. In Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? 
Thinking from Women's Lives, Sandra Harding argues that Western sciences 
"continue to be complicit with racist, colonial, and imperial projects... Western 
sciences fail to situate their understandings of both nature and sciences within 
maximally realistic and objective world histories." 65 Western scientists have also 
promoted inappropriate ecological and horticultural methods which have served 
to undermine indigenous knowledge and socio-economic survival. 

Wangari, Thomas-Slayter, and Rocheleau record the Kathama 
agroforestry project in the Machakos district of Kenya is an example of how 
gendered work and knowledge, as they relate to ecologies and economies in the 
region and lives of the rural people, can shift from Western science to women's 
science. In 1983, a group of ecological and social scientists began working with 
grassroots groups (primarily women) to examine experiments of growing trees for 
mulch, nitrogen, and fuelwood. By 1984, the region was engulfed in drought and 



64 Ibid., 144. 

65 Ibid., as quoted in, 150. 



36 

famine. The grassroots groups became important resources for survival. 
Hunger, malnutrition, water and fodder shortages created a need for indigenous 
tree crops as fodder reserves, tree crops as assets rather than livestock, and 
diverse wild foods and medicinal plants. But because of unsound, unsustainable 
Western practices and policies, the ecology and economy of the region had 
drastically shifted from the last drought in 1946. During the 1984 drought the 
concerns were amplified: less grazing land existed, and livestock movement was 
restricted. In over 60 percent of the households, women were the herders and 
managers of the livestock while most of the men in the region were working in the 
cities, on plantations, or serving in the military or with the police. 66 The women 
had to recall their knowledge of indigenous plant propagation and harvesting, and 
become agroforestry scientists. Sharing of knowledge and skills became an act 
of survival. Data was collected on who knew what about botany, horticulture, and 
herbs and who could apply the knowledge to agroforestry systems. Several 
varieties of fruit trees, vegetables, and medicinal plants were selected to be 
domesticated and integrated into the agroforestry management program. 67 

Gender played a role in collecting the data and resources necessary to 
alleviate future droughts or famines. The knowledge which the men possessed 
was weakened by their migration to the cities, their sedentary lives, and formal 
schooling. 68 They shared their knowledge of indigenous plants and their specific 
uses but it was limited knowledge among the older men, the younger men having 



66 Ibid., 145. 

67 Ibid., 146. 

68 Ibid., 146. 



37 

not had the opportunity or desire to learn the indigenous traditions and skills. The 

same was true with the women, but they tended to maintain their knowledge by 

passing it on to each other and their daughters. As Western colonization, ideas, 

and ideals spread throughout the region, women had double the workload and 

responsibilities, as the men migrated to the cities and went to school. While the 

men had choices, the women remained connected to their communities and the 

land. Wangari, Thomas-Slayter, and Rocheleau write, "The fact that men actually 

owned most of the private plots and formally controlled the public lands set the 

stage for a gendered struggle for access to resources which was waged with 

finesse and skillful manipulation by individual women and self-help groups." 69 

The authors further argue: 

Both women and men had rediscovered trees and wild 
plants as sources of food, fodder, and medicine, 
and they expressed interest in planting fodder 
trees and the introduction of fruit trees for both 
home use and sale. Many people (particularly women) 
had acquired a healthy skepticism about over reliance 
on cash income to offset the effects of famine... 
When cash from distress sales of livestock and other 
major assets failed to secure food for their families, 
many people lost faith in market mechanisms to resolve 
food shortages... 70 

What marks the presence of rural Lesbians and women is their situated, yet 
diverse and multiple knowledge. Agriculture and horticulture are about 
environmental history, applied technology, and socio-political stability. The 
people of the Machakos district resolved to practice more sustainable and self- 
sufficient methods of food production. Again, the authors comment, 



69 Ibid., 148. 

70 Ibid., 148-9. 



38 

The mere recognition and documentation of survival as a gendered 
science in harsh and unpredictable environments - political, economic, 
and ecological - could also effect change at local and national levels. 
Such a process could serve to legitimize and strengthen rural women's 
and men's separate, shared and interlocking knowledge as tools to 
shape their futures. 71 

Luce Irigaray's connection between bodies and economics is brought forth in the 

above example of sub-Saharan women. This is helpful in constructing lesbian 

economics and ecological practices. This attempt is not to simply exchange the 

male sexual concept of nature with females sexual concept. Nor is it an attempt 

to suggest that lesbians and women have a more natural connection with the 

earth than do men. Rather, it is an attempt to structure a form of gender/sexual 

equity, space, and recognition; to affirm gender/sexual respect and establish 

certain gender/sexual taboos. 

In 1989, the rural poverty rate in the United States was 40 percent for 

African-Americans, 38 percent for Chicanos, and 30 percent for Native 

Americans. 72 Gender, class, and race are significant factors concerning rural 

African-American lesbians and women. Between 1865 and 1940 most rural 

African-American women labored as sharecroppers without land of their own. 

The legacy of slavery remained entrenched within the South, and most other 

regions of the United States practiced socio-economic racism. African-American 

women cared for their own families, worked other people's farmland, gardened in 

their own small kitchen gardens while they had to care for the white people's 



71 Ibid., 150. 

72 Ibid., Sachs, 22. 



39 

children, clean their houses, and cater their meals. Their access to land and 

resources, capital, and credit simply didn't exist. As Caroline Sachs records, 

Black access to agricultural land reached its height in 1920 and 
continually declined during the rest of the twentieth century. In 1920, 
blacks operated 746,717 farms in the United States and 1 in 7 farm 
operators was black. By 1987, the number of black-operated farms 
had declined to 22,954, with a ratio of black farm operators decreasing 
1 in 91. ..in Maryland between 1982 and 1987, black-operated farms 
declined by 33 percent compared to 9 percent for whites. 73 

Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei stress that from slavery to current time, African- 
American lesbians and women have been crucial to United States economy. 
African-American lesbian poet, Pat Parker expresses their legacy of labor in the 
poem, "legacy HI." I quote in part: 

It is from this past that I come 

surrounded by sisters in blood 

and in spirit 

it is this past 

that I bequeath 

a history of work and struggle 74 

Parker goes on to speak of an incomplete world where women are still "property 

and chattel," "where color still shuts doors," and "where sexual choice still 

threatens." 75 The legacy of slavery is still with us. 

Women who were brought from the West Africa and other regions of Africa 

as slaves, had come from tribes which assigned land to them to farm and from 

which to feed their families. In many tribes farming was women's work. 76 

Plantation owners realized that they could exploit both male and female slaves as 



73 Ibid., 51. 

74 Ibid., Amott and Matthaei, 141. 

75 Ibid., 141. 

76 Ibid., 144. 



40 

farm laborers. A friend of mine, an African-American woman, has spoken of the 
white masters who wanted their female slaves to look like women, but work like 
men. In Georgia, a white person was shocked to see both males and females 
working together in the fields as equals, they "...promiscuously run their ploughs 
side by side, and day after day... and as far as I was able to learn, the part the 
women sustained in this masculine employment, was quite as efficient as that of 
the more athletic sex." 77 By sexualizing nature and women, the voyeur can justify 
anything. 

During Reconstruction, between 1865 and 1898, 4 to 8 percent of African- 
American families in the South owned their own farms. That figured doubled 
between 1890 and 1910, when 14 percent of the farms were owned by African- 

78 

Americans. Black agricultural colleges were formed in the 1 890's. During this 
time African-American women without husbands farmed plantations. "One 
couple, Mrs. Jane Brown and Mrs. Halsey, who, '...leased nine acres and a horse 
to cultivate the land all that time, just the same as men would have done. They 
have saved considerable money from year to year, and are living 
independently.'" 79 Jim Crow laws were enacted to shift and segregate the 
African-American population away from the whites. Farmland became an issue, 
with the whites taking back much of the land for themselves. 80 

Within the past century, very little has changed concerning land reform for 
African-American lesbians and women. In 1970, 8 percent of African-American 



77 Ibid., 146. 

78 Ibid., 154-55. 

79 Ibid., 156. 

80 Ibid., 156. 



41 

81 

women owned farms, and in 1 980 it was reduced to 5 percent. Yet, even 
though African-American lesbians and women migrated to the North and urban 
centers to find employment, and even though they have been disposed of their 
traditional connection with the earth through horticulture and agriculture, there 
exists a spirit of gardens. Alice Walker, in her book, In Search of Our Mothers' 
Gardens, 82 portrays the spirit and dignity that her mother and other African- 
American women found in their own kitchen gardens and flower beds. Tending 
their gardens as artists, these women enfolded and entwined themselves among 
the roses and vegetables for a moment's pleasure and peace entering into worlds 
of their own creative choosing. The garden was the life force that provided these 
women with a sense of well-being and pride as co-creators with nature. After 
long days of working in the fields, factories, or carrying for white families, these 
women would find solace in their gardens. They shared seeds, produce, and 
flowers with their neighbors, bragging about who grew the largest tomatoes or 
the prettiest tulips. They fed their families healthy, nutritious food. Lesbians and 
women have a deep connection to the earth, to the garden. And when they had to 
move to urban centers they took their skills and knowledge with them. Urban 
gardens have become a successful and necessary component of social stability. 
Patricia Hynes writes, "the urban community garden, with its potential for feeding 
households and generating local cottage industry, with its power to restore a 
measure of community life, and with its capacity to recycle organic wastes, is 



81 Ibid., 189. 
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother's Gardens (New York: Harcourt Brace 



Jovanovich, 1983). 



42 

thriving throughout the world... Globally, about two hundred million urban dwellers 
are urban farmers. Most of these farmers are women, and they provide food and 

83 

income for about seven hundred million people." 

Women of color living in inner-cities who garden have a deeply rooted 
relationship with plants that can be traced back to their traditions of subsistence 
farming and intentional agricultural practices in the agrarian Southern United 
States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia. 

Our connection with the earth and to the land dignifies our human 

presence. I quote from Paula Gunn Allen's poem, "Some Like Indians Endure" 

i have it in my mind that 
dykes are like indians 

they're a lot like indians 
they used to live as tribes 
they owned tribal land 
it was called the earth 

they were massacred 

lots of times 

they always came back 

like the grass 

like the clouds 

they got massacred again 

they thought caringsharing 

about the earth and each other 

was a good thing 

they rode horses 

and sang to the moon 84 

Reimagining our genesis must be done in recognition of other's beginnings and 

their connection with the land. On February 2, 1848, the United States signed a 



83 Ibid., Hynes, 156. 

84 Paul Gunn Allen, "Some Like Indians Endure," in Living the Spirit: A Gay American 
Indian Anthology, ed., Will Roscoe (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), 9. 



43 

treaty with Mexico, ending their two year territorial war. One hundred thousand 

Mexican citizens were annexed by our government. The land which was to be for 

the Mexicans, according to the treaty, was never honored. Restitution has never 

been made. 85 The fact that we so easily annex and colonize indigenous peoples, 

trying to erase their genesis, is a lesson in white, heterosexual politics. Small 

Chicano landowners and farmers had their land bought out from under them by 

agribusinesses who refused to pay fair prices. The desert land was cleared of its 

native plants, by humans and by cattle over-grazing. Land that had once been 

used communally by all Chicanos was privatized. Gloria Anzaldua describes in 

The Homeland, Aztlan, her experience at seeing the devastation, 

In my childhood I saw the end of dryland farming. I witnessed the land 
cleared; saw the huge pipes connected to underwater sources 
sticking up in the air... In the 1950's I saw the land, cut up into 
thousands of neat rectangles and squares, constantly being irrigated. 
In the 340-day growing season, the seeds of any fruit or vegetable had 
only to be stuck in the ground in order to grow. More big land 
corporations came in and bought up the remaining land. 6 

Reimagining our genesis can begin by reconnecting with the land, using organic, 

sustainable principles and practices. 



THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES OF ORGANIC HORTICULTURE AND 
AGRICULTURE, AND BIODYNAMIC FARMING 

The practices of horticulture and agriculture are different. Agriculture is 

the science and art of farming, cultivating the soil, producing crops, and may or 

not include raising animals as livestock. Horticulture is the science and art of 



85 Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/ La Frontera: A New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute 



Books, 1987), 7. 
86 Ibid., 9. 



44 

growing flowers, fruits, vegetables, and shrubs. The two become entwined when 
we consider small, diversified, self-contained farms. Ecological agriculture, or in 
other terms, organic, sustainable farming is practiced with the main idea that the 
soil is a living system, and that there is a deep, archetypal connection between 
the soil, plants, animals, and human beings. In Buddhist language, there is a 
connection between sentient and insentient beings, a connection that 
encompasses the earth and its biosphere. 

There is no one, all defining and final definition of organic farming. It is 
practiced by diverse individuals and communities whose definitions can vary 
considerably. There is, however, a general sense of what organic farming and 
gardening encompasses. "Which is," as Nicholas Lampkin explains in his book, 
Organic Farming, "genuinely part of a whole philosophy that encompasses 

87 

education, art, nutrition and religion, as well as agriculture." For example, the 

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements standard document 

states the following principles and practices of organic farming as: 

to produce food of the highest nutritional quality in sufficient quantity; 

to work with natural systems rather than seeking to dominate them; 

to encourage and enhance biological cycles with the farming system, 

involving microorganisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals; 

to maintain and increase the long-term fertility of soils; 

to use as far as possible renewable resources in locally organised 

agricultural systems; 

to work as much as possible within a closed system; 

to give all livestock conditions of life that allow them to perform all 

aspects of their innate behaviour; 

to avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural 

techniques; 



7 Nicholas Lampkin, Organic Farming (Ipswich, United Kingdom: Farming Press, 1990), 



45 



• to maintain genetic diversity of the agricultural system and its 
surroundings, including the protection of plant and wildlife habitats; 

• to allow agricultural producers an adequate return and satisfaction from 
their work including a safe working environment; 

• to consider the wider social and ecological impact of the farming 
system. 

The principles and practices of organic agriculture and horticulture are a 

manifesto of guidelines and ethics on how to care for soil, animals, produce, 

ecosystems, and people. The above standards have been implemented as state 

and federal regulations and laws that specify a criteria which must be achieved 

and maintained by farmers in order to qualify for raising and marketing certified 

organic produce and/or livestock. 



BIODYNAMICS 

Biodynamic farming and gardening began in 1924, after Rudolf Steiner, 

founder of the Anthroposophical Society, gave a series of lectures to farmers in 

Europe. The principles and practices of biodynamics are the same as those for 

organic farming and gardening. But in addition, as Wolf Storl, author of Culture 

and Horticulture, states, "Biodynamics applies a unique and sustainable approach 

to agricultural practices which takes into consideration the ecology of the earth as 

a whole and its relationship to the workings of the universe." 89 Nicholas Lampkin 

further magnifies biodynamics by explaining that 

The essential sound structure of agriculture, developed 
over thousands of years, has been torn apart in the 
second half of this century, resulting in environmental 
concerns and economic instability. Biodynamic 



88 Ibid. 4. 



89 

Wolf Storl, "A Comparison of Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture," Lilipoh, 



Summer/Fall 1997, 15. 



46 

practitioners believe that these problems can be healed 
by a comprehensive understanding of the ecological, 
social and spiritual totality of farming. 90 

This would include observing cosmic rhythms and lunar periods on plant and 

animal life. Biodynamic agriculture is a different practice from organic farming in 

that biodynamics uses herbal preparation applied to the soil, compost, and plants 

in homeopathic dilutions to stimulate the source of the problem instead of treating 

the symptoms. A special emphasis is placed upon the seeds, which are adapted 

to the site and farming system as a whole. The biodynamic farm or garden is 

viewed as a living organism. This is grounded from and within a unique 

recognition of the spirituality and energy forces of minerals, plants, and animals 

and their relation with humans throughout our evolutionary process. 91 

What the male organic and biodynamic horticulturalists and agriculturalists 

often fail to realize or admit is that their principles and practices were invented 

and developed by lesbians and women centuries ago. Organic and biodynamic 

farming and gardening can provide our lesbian genesis with a structure and a 

language, a point of departure. To live pastorally is to recognize the notion of 

right livelihood, appropriate technology, and an ecological agricultural system 

based on polyculture planting. How to be pastorally responsible in relation with 

the earth and its biosphere is to follow carefully traced patterns of mindful 

practices, to organize lesbian life from a language which has always been 

present, but unknown or forgotten. 



90 Ibid., 653. 

91 Ibid., Lampkin, 653. 



47 

Lesbians and women have been practicing sustainable organic and 
biodynamic gardening, horticulture, and agriculture for centuries. Their 
knowledge is situated within their gendered space, economy, race, class, and 
geography. Because of our diversity and multiplicity, a natural structure and 
marking of our bodies and the spaces we inhabit, we have been able to develop 
an archetypal language that produces ecologically sustained polycultures, and 
multiple, diverse economies and socio-political systems. Male organic and 
biodynamic farmers need to recognize the female farmer as the progenators of 
these agricultural and horticultural principles and practices. 

Native American lesbians and women were responsible for feeding their 
tribes. Their gathering, planting, and harvesting provided their diets with the 
necessary calories and nutrients, with hunting as a supplement. The timing of the 
planting was an important ritual and scientific moment that occured according to 

92 

the position of the stars, the moon, and other natural events. Cosmology and 
mythology had important connections to the seasons and cycles of the Native 
American's daily lives and views. They played important parts as sustainable 
practices centered within the earth and its biosphere. It would never have 
occured to Native American lesbians and women to not practice organic or 
biodynamic systems. 

Maize was an important staple for North American tribes. As Carolyn 
Merchant records in Earthcare Women and the Environment, horticulture was 
the major source of food for southeastern New England tribes, with maize 



92 •% 

Carolyn Merchant, Earthcare: Women and the Environment (New York: Routledge, 



1996), 94. 



48 

93 

providing 65 percent of the caloric intake. Horticulture was a female practice. 
Women's gendered knowledge led them to be the scientists, botanists, and 
herbalists. They planted, weeded, harvested, and distributed the corn and other 
crops, such as beans, squash, and pumpkins. They planted the maize in hills, 
four grains of maize next to two seeds of pole beans. The beans would grow-up 
around the corn stalks. Squash and pumpkins were planted between the hills, 
the broad leaves served as covers to shade the soil and retain moisture, prevent 
flooding, and keep weeds to a minimum. The planting and harvesting were done 
in intervals to provide on going food supply and reduce the loss of entire crops to 
natural disasters. 94 These multi-cropping practices used space efficiently, 
reduced pests and weeds, and provided food even if a crop failed. Studies in 
agricultural science show that maize needs high levels of nitrogen and beans and 
other legumes fix nitrogen in the soil. The planting of corn, beans, and squash 
together is a sustainable practice nutritionally, ecologically, and economically. 95 

Genetic diversity is an extremely important aspect and issue concerning 
the make-up and politics of seeds. Using maize again as an example, Native 
American Lesbians and women were the first to breed maize. They bred diverse 
varieties to be planted in various locations according to soil and climatic 
conditions. The maize was open-pollinated and highly resistant to diseases. 

Plant breeders in the seed industry and at land grant universities have 
developed hybrid varieties to increase crop productions. Plants were bred to the 



93 Ibid., 93. 

94 Ibid, 94. 

95 Ibid., Sachs, 76. 



49 

shape of harvesting machines, which means they were bred to be uniform in size 
and shape and to ripen uniformly. Hybrid seeds, machines, fertilizers and 
pesticides all helped to increase maize yields in the United States: from 24.5 
bushels per acre in 1931 to 86.8 bushels per acre in 1971 to 1 18.5 bushels per 
acre in 1990. 96 However, the results of these high yields were environmentally 
detrimental. Large-scale mono-cropping and limited crop rotations cause soil 
erosion and depletion. Nitrogen fertilizers seep into the groundwater. The maize 
becomes susceptible to pests, and heavy usage of pesticides adds to the 
problems. Herbicides are sprayed to kill weeds. Ninety-seven percent of maize 
farmland was sprayed with herbicides in 1990, only 1 1 percent were sprayed in 
1957. Ten percent of community wells, and 4 percent of rural wells are 
contaminated with one or more pesticides. 97 As Caroline Sachs points-out, 
"Genetic uniformity of germ plasm poses an ominous threat for worldwide and 
regional crop failures, because genetically uniform plants exhibit susceptibility to 
diseases, insects, and climatic changes." 98 These non-sustainable agricultural 
policies and practices reach into every colonized nation and crop on earth. 



HELEN AND SCOTT NEARING 



The society from which we moved had rejected 
in practice and in principle our pacifism, 
our vegetarianism and our collectivism. So 
thorough was this rejection that, holding 
such views, we could not teach in the schools, 
write in the press or speak over the radio, 
and were thus denied our part in public 



96 Ibid., 78. 

97 Ibid., 80. 

98 Ibid., 81. 



50 



education. Under these circumstances, where 
could outcasts from a dying social order live 
frugally and decently, and at the same time 
have sufficient leisure and energy to assist 
in the speedy liquidation of the disintegrating 
society and to help replace it with a more 
workable social system? 



Helen and Scott Nearing, 
Living the Good Life 



Helen and Scott Nearing were radical resistors. Their design for living was 
based on a semi-subsistence livelihood. They systematically and conscientiously 
defined an ethic, a space, and an economy based on the practices and principles 
of organic, ecological homesteading. They wished to keep their autonomy and 
independence from the price-profit economy of our society. Their notions of 
earning a livelihood was based on a use-economy; bread labor. They raised as 
much of their own food as their soil and climate would permit. Bartering for 
products that they didn't produce was an important aspect. Their respect for all 
life wouldn't allow them to "enslave or exploit their fellow creature." 100 Helen and 
Scott Nearing were heterosexuals who refused to adopt heterosexual politics. 
Their lives and practices can provide lesbians with a sense of well-being and 
socio-economic stability. 

In 1932, the Nearings moved from New York City to the Green Mountains 
in Vermont. They were against unearned income and accumulation of profits. 
They wanted to make their living with their own hands, have time for leisure and 



99 Helen and Scott Nearing, - The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of 
Self Sufficient Living (New York: Schoken books, 1989), 3-4. 

100 Ibid., 35. 



51 

cultural pursuits, and wanted to maintain their autonomy. They were looking for 

peace: "a quiet pace, with time to wonder, ponder and observe. We hoped to 

replace worry, fear and hate with serenity, purpose and at-one-ness." 101 Without 

the use of animals or animal products or chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or 

herbicides, they were able to successfully sustain their homesteads, twenty years 

in Vermont and over forty years in Maine. Their subsistence homesteading 

helped them remain independent of the labor market and mostly independent of 

the commodity markets. Their cash-crops were maple syrup and blueberries. 

They claim that their rigorous daily schedules and healthy, organic diet kept them 

away from doctors for 20 years. They organized their lives in cycles: six months 

of bread labor provided them with six months of leisure each year. Four hours of 

labor daily, and four hours of leisure daily. Leisure was traveling, research, 

writing, lecturing and teaching. Their homestead was open to anyone who had a 

calling for the good life and was willing to work in exchange for food and lodging. 

The principles and practices which the Nearings used to garden with were 

organized around efficiently laid-out plans: 

We wanted to live twelve months in the year from a 
garden which enjoyed barely three months of frost-free weather. We 
wanted to eat fresh, unprocessed food. We wanted a variety of 
garden products which would furnish a rounded diet. We wanted to 
reduce canning and preserving to a minimum. 102 

Over the many years, the Nearings were able to reach these goals, and in their 

latter years they had honed their knowledge and skills into a fine-tuned way of 

living. The good life was theirs for the keeping. 



101 Ibid., 6. 

102 Ibid, 105. 



52 

Their accountability and responsibility to the earth, its bioshpere, their 
bodies and politics was exemplary. The ethical, ecological, and economical 
statement they made was personal and global: inner peace and worldly peace. 
Concerning the need to eat responsibly, they wrote, "There is something 
extravagant and irresponsible about eating strawberries and green peas in a cold 
climate, every month of the year. Such practices ignore the meaningful cycle of 

1 03 

the seasons. Throughout the yearly cycle they ate a variety of fresh food. By 
following the seasons they were able to have successive crops. They were 
aware of this connection with the Native American horticultural practices and 
other indigenous peoples around the world. In the spring they harvested the 
wintering leeks, chives, multiplier onions, dandelions, parsley, collards, and 
chicory. At this time of season they also dug parsnips, and harvested salsify. 
From the cold frame came radishes, lettuce, green cress, and mustard greens. 
Asparagus and spinach were grown also. Later in the season they grew green 
peas, beets, lettuce, string beans, and squash. Corn, tomatoes, shellbeans, 
broccoli, cauliflower, and celery were planted late in the season. In the autumn, 
cabbages, collards, more lettuce, winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, 
escarolle, Chinese cabbage, fall radishes, potatoes, and dried beans. They grew 
and ate strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries in season. They planted pear, 
plum, and apple trees. 104 They built up the top soil by composting, mulching, and 
letting nature take its course with the use of earthworms and their castings. The 
soil was viewed and treated as a living entity. Healthy soil is alive with 



103 Ibid, 105. 

104 Ibid., 105-7. 



53 

microorganisms, flora and fauna, plants and animals. The importance of 

earthworms is explained further: 

Earthworms ventilate and drain the land as well as transform trash to 
balanced plant food. Top soil swarms with insect and rodent life. The 
richer the top soil in organic matter, the larger will be its living 
population (unless it is drugged or killed with chemical fertilizers, 
poisonous sprays or dusts) and the more friable for production use. 
..."Some twenty-five tons of fresh wormcasts are produced every year 
on each acre of properly farmed land". 105 

Over the years the Nearings developed a mono-diet consisting of vegetables, 

fruits, nuts, and cereals. The Nearing's diet appears to be a poly-diet with its 

richness and diversity. Although the Nearing's mono-diet consisted of many 

varieties of plants, they kept within a diet that wasn't over processed or prepared. 

They didn't eat breads or dairy products, gourmet or ethnic foods, very much like 

the Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples ate a variety of foods 

but within their subsistence, micro-bioregions. They ate foods which were in 

season and which were properly combined to achieve maximum nutrition. This 

pattern of growing and eating their own food and eating low on the food chain, 

kept the Nearings not only healthy, but sane. Their minds were sharp, their 

bodies were healthy and rugged, and they lived in peace. Their semi-subsistence 

homesteading was a way of life and science that lesbians and Third World 

peoples could use as a model. Rather than trying to live as consumers with First 

World, white male prerogatives and privileges, lesbians and First World peoples 

could develop their own intrinsic, indigenous cultures, and adopt agricultural 

practices which are appropriate and sustainable, such as the sub-Saharan people 



105 Ibid., 96. 

106 Ibid., 149. 



54 

are trying to do. Mono-diets of organic foods can help alleviate many diseases, 

malnutrition, and hunger, and help lesbians eat lower on the food chain, thus 

supporting the need for adequate and equal distribution of food and land to 

people in Third World countries. Environmental degradation can be alleviated, 

also. 

The Nearings influenced a generation of people who were looking for an 

alternative to capitalism and consumerism, pollution and poisons. The Nearings 

were secure and proud of their lives. They wrote: 

Our life in Vermont may be justified, or can justify 
itself... as an instance and an example of sane 
living in an insane world... as a means of contacting 
nature, a contact in many ways more important than 
contacting society... as a desirable, limited 
alternative to one segment of the existing social 
order... as a refuge for political deviants... as a 
milieu in which heretofore active people can spend 
their riper years (in accordance with the Eastern 
conception of life stages: the sage or anchorite 
following the stage of the householder) ...as an 
opportunity for a sage or mature person to follow 
his [sic] profession and avocations. 107 

On August 24, 1983, Scott Nearing died at home at the age of 100. He prefered 
to die his own death, without the interference of a society which had rejected him; 
a society which he in turn resisted and rejected. How Scott Nearing lived was 
how he died, with grace and dignity; on his own terms. He decided to stop 
eating. First, he fasted on juices, then only on water. With Helen at his side, he 
died at peace. Helen died twelve years later on September 17, 1995, at the age 
of 91 . The car she was driving hit a tree. She had wanted to die as peacefully 



107 Ibid., 192. 



55 

and as in control as Scott had, and to die as well as she had lived. And although 
Helen's life ended without her knowledge and planning, she nevertheless had 
prepared herself for her death, and she could go on peacefully to experience 
what she and Scott viewed as a transition from their lives now, to experiencing 

108 

another way of being somewhere else. 



SUMMARY 

How lesbians can live pastorally with a sense of well-being and social 
development through horticulture is a dynamic act and marking of our gendered 
spaces and geography. Horticulture is connected to politics and religion, social 
stability and economics. Horticulture is the link between life and death, between 
food and famine, a mono-diet and malnutrition, and starvation and sustainable 
systems. Our markings as lesbians in relation with others can signify and stamp 
our culture, history, and heritage as a politics of difference and a different politics. 
We can resist phallogocentricism and its by-product heterosexism, while we 
develop our own traditions: forms of spirituality, ecology, economics, language, 
and lesbian space. As I cited Donna Haraway earlier, we can be part of "an 
earth-wide network of connections" and we have "the power of modern critical 
theories of how meanings and bodies get made... that have a chance for a 
future." The role of horticulture is necessary for lesbian well-being and social 
development. Lesbians and women's rural life and culture are our primal roots 
and rights as horticulturalists and agriculturalists, as scientists and inventors. 



1 08 

European Vegetarian News [Online], Issues 3+4, 1995. 



56 

How we feed ourselves is how we view nature and our bodies. Lesbians 
can eat lower on the food chain. We can be instrumental in land reform 
legislation, by working to give the land back to the indigenous peoples of the 
world, and give lesbians and women their own land. Lesbians can help start 
grassroots movements and non-governmental organizations, and help design 
lesbians and women's public and agricultural policies. Land reform for females 
can be in the form of land-trusts. Land-trusts guarantee that they can farm their 
land for 99 years, that the land must be preserved as farmland, and that they can 
pass on their gendered knowledge to the next generation. 

Let lesbians and women care for our seeds. Genetic diversity is being 

lost. About 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been 

lost. 109 Seed Savers Exchange estimates that 90 percent of the food crops grown 

at the turn of the century are no longer commercially available, and two thirds of 

the almost 5,000 open pollinated varieties available in 1984 disappeared by 

1994. 110 In The Abundant Life Seed Foundation's mission statement there is an 

explanation of why seed diversity is such an important issue: 

Hybrids have been created for many reasons practical 
to agribusiness, but less necessary in sustainable 
agriculture, and not even desirable for backyard 
gardening... hybrid seeds are sterile, or don't 
reproduce true to type. That means that gardeners 
and farmers have a perpetual reliance on seed 
companies. The tradition of planting seeds is 
completely interrupted by both the physical 
impossibility of saving viable seed and by the legal 
impossibility of saving seed. Many hybrid seeds are 
patented, and it is illegal to reuse those seeds 



109 Abundant Life Seed Foundation [Online], e-mail: abundant@aolypen.com. 

110 Ibid. 



57 

without buying them again. 111 
Open-pollinated, heirloom seeds that have been raised in a particular region or 
climate adapt to the area, and generation after generation of seeds are bred 
stronger, more viable, diverse, and disease resistant. Scientific research shows 
that heirloom varieties are nutritionally superior to hybrids. Lesbians can donate 
to the World Seed Fund, become breeders of genetically diverse seeds, and/or 
join the Seed Growers network. 

Lesbians can develop or support Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) 
projects. Members buy shares of fresh produce according to the growing season, 
which is then delivered to the member. The money goes directly to the farmer. 
In conventional market systems only 25 cents of every food dollar goes to the 
farmer. In a CSA all the money goes to the farmer. Since 1981 , more than 
620,000 family farms have gone out of production due to development or 
agribusiness. 112 Many CSA's take food stamps, have sliding scale fees, donate 
surplus produce to local food banks and soup kitchens, have work days on the 
farm, and encourage bartering and/or sharing of resources. 

Lesbians can shop at local food co-operatives or organize one. The most 
successful co-ops are run by volunteers. Farmer's Markets that address and 
reflect local and regional produce and art can be significant spaces for community 
support and economies. 

Olympia, Washington has organized a group of 300 people and 
businesses named Sound Exchange which is devoted to increasing diverse, and 



111 ibid. 

112 Farms for All: Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Organic Online, Inc. 



58 

multiple economic activity in their community. Seed money from the Community 
Sustaining Fund was used to establish a barter exchange system with printed 
scrip. Part of this work is centered around Programs on Sustainable Living which 
has covered topics such as environmental justice and housing alternatives. Micro 
Enterprise Lending, Sustainable Homes Demonstration Project, and Car Co-op 
are off-shoots of this grassroots movement to help create new socio-economic 
policies and practices. 113 Lesbians can and do belong to these efforts. 

Lesbians have a voice and presence within the engaged Buddhist 
movement. Practicing Buddhism as a sustainable socio-political, spiritual, 
economic, ecological and lesbian liberation movement helps give credence to 
living pastorally. By reexamining lesbian's and women's importance as scientists 
and inventors of organic, sustainable horticultural and agricultural methods and 
technologies we can begin to reimagine our genesis. Engaged Buddhism can 
serve as a practice, a pattern, a language, a tool, and a symbol for how lesbians 
can live. Chapter Two examines the relationship between engaged Buddhism, 
horticulture, ethics, and lesbians. 



113 Sound Exchange [Online], email: vision@olywa.net. 



CHAPTER TWO 

LIVING ETHICALLY 

HOW WE LIVE IS HOW WE DIE. REIMAGINING OUR DEATH 
DHARMA LESBIANS AND MINDFULNESS 
MEDITATION, ACTION, AND PEACE 



The really big issue is, what is going to be born 
here in America in terms of Buddhism? I think 
what's going to be born that's really new will be 
born among women. Because for men the pattern is 
all there: the structures and the roots of climb- 
ing and gaining knowledge and gaining authority 
and all of those things, they have them all. 
Their full spiritual development already has a 
process laid out for it. Ours does not. 14 

Karen Gray, interview 
Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the 
New Buddhism 



Almost all religions are built on faith - rather 
'blind' faith it would seem. But in Buddhism 
emphasis is laid on 'seeing' knowing, understanding, 
and not on faith, or belief. 1 

Walpola Sri Rahula 
What the Buddha Taught 

The multiplicity, diversity, and fluidity of Buddhism is a link to my lesbian time 

and space. Being Buddhist has the same meaning for me as being lesbian: it 

explains who and why I am. It explains the universe, mind, spirit, ecosystems, 

birth, and death. Everything is moving, changing, evolving, digressing, and 

dying. My interpretation of Buddhism is grounded within my lesbian context. If I 

don't agree with an aspect of Buddhism I simply discard it. If something smacks 



114 Sandy Boucher, Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism 
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), 76. 

115 Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1974), 8. 



59 



60 

of heterosexism and patriarchy, I know that it's not the Dharma, the Way, and 

therefore, it's something in which I don't want to engage. I reimagine, reinvent my 

Buddhism. If I speak from my context, engaged within my own spiritual and 

intellectual experience, I can claim Buddhism as my rightful religion and practice. 

Christopher Queen explains it this way, 

It may be said that to turn the wheel - the ancient Buddhist metaphor 
for preaching the Dharma - is to change the wheel; each rotation 
suggests a new "angle" on the truth. Over many centuries, Buddhist 
teachings have been worn, mended, and changed like ancient 
cartwheels; today some have been traded in for the rubber tires of the 
automobile. 116 

Redefining Buddhism is a legitimate Buddhist quest for enlightenment and truth. 

Engaged Buddhism is a different hermeneutics of liberation. 117 To change the 

wheel can mean decentering heteronormatives and centering a Lesbian ethic. 

I'm a Buddhist and lesbian because I see, know, and understand The Four 

Noble Truths, the heart of Buddha's teachings: 

The First Noble Truth: Life is suffering. 

The Second Noble Truth: The cause of suffering 

is thirst, craving, desire, greed. 
The Third Noble Truth: There is emancipation, 

liberation, and freedom from suffering. 
The Fourth Noble Truth: The Way leading to the 

cessation of suffering is the Middle Way, or 

Eightfold Path: 



Right Understanding Right Livelihood 

Right Thought Right Effort 

Right Speech Right Mindfulness 

Right Action Right Concentration 118 



116 Ibid, Queen, 62. 

117 Ibid, 48. 

118 Ibid., Rahula, 16-50. 



61 



In addition, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the leader of India's Untouchables 

before their country's independence from the British, an author of the Indian 

constitution, and convert from Hinduism to Buddhism, is an important source for 

my views on The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. Ambedkar wrote: 

If you want to gain self-respect, change your 

religion. 

If you want to create a cooperating society, 

change your religion. 

If you want equality, change your religion. 

If you want independence, change your religion. 

If you want to make the world in which you live 

happy, change your religion. 119 

Reimagining a lesbian transgendered genesis and reimagining our lesbian death 

and lesbian form means that we will have to change our religions. 

The traditional interpretation and presentation of The Four Noble Truths 

has been to blame individuals for their suffering. Karma (cause and effect), or 

karmic reincarnation has been used to typecast certain individuals and groups as 

having an innate karma which causes them to be victims of their own birth. 

Suffering is caused by one's own "bad" karma. A person's former life would be, 

and is, used to explain their present suffering. This particular belief was repulsive 

to Ambedkar and the Untouchables, and many other Buddhists. 120 It is equally 

repulsive and offensive to me. Voluntary poverty, another Buddhist tradition, 

wasn't and isn't a reality for people who already suffered/suffer from poverty, an 

economic structure imposed by governments. Voluntary poverty is a privileged 

poverty which has nothing to do with violence of poverty imposed upon millions of 



119 Ibid., Queen, 51. 

120 Ibid, 59. 



62 

people; lesbians, women, and children in particular. According to Shakyamuni's 
(Buddha's name, meaning sage of the Shaky clan) teachings, individuals have 
the capacity to think for themselves and were/are encouraged to do so. He also 
taught that reality can never be reduced to or through human thought or 
language. 

Robert Thurman and Ronald Davidson have argued that Buddhist 
hermeneutics have shifted and developed over the centuries through innovations 
and modifications of doctrines and teachings. Thurman defined hermeneutics as 
"a philosophical discipline of rational interpretation of a traditional canon of 
Sacred Scriptures." 121 Davidson traced the transmission of teachings through the 
members of the early Sangha and found clear modifications of Shakyamuni's 
words, which hadn't been written and recorded until well after his death. Various 
dialects of preaching existed, Shakyamuni's disciples spoke in his name, and they 
taught that the Dharma had existed before Buddha, and would continue beyond, 
which was the formation of Buddhist orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. 
Individuals are to test and verify the truth of the Dharma, either through direct 
experience or through reading Buddhist texts and scriptures. 122 Davidson argues 
for the importance of "the role of non-Buddhist literature in the formation of new 
genres of scripture, the classification systems of the scriptures, the lack of 
centralized authority, and the proliferation of various sects." 123 Ambedkar 
changed the Dharma wheel by invoking his important slogan, "Educate! Agitate! 



121 Ibid, 60. 

122 Ibid., 60. 

123 Ibid., 60. 



63 

Organize!" 124 He pumped new meaning into The Four Noble Truths, and 
according to Christopher Queen, gave Buddhism relevance for the Untouchables. 
Within thirty-six hours after Ambedkar and his wife converted to Buddhism in 
1956, almost half a million people followed Ambedkar's example and converted, 
also. 

Ambedkar's Four Noble Truths were constructed from a socio-economic 
truth. Suffering was caused by injustice and poverty which are results of socio- 
political, and religio-cultural institutions. These institutions express their greed 
and hatred toward certain groups within a society. Freedom and liberation can 
only happen by organizing movements to educate the oppressed peoples. 
Ambedkar stated that he wasn't interested in material or social gain, but in 
spiritual freedom. 

How I interpret The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path is defined 
from my radical butch lesbian feminist engaged Buddhist perspective. I agree 
with Ambedkar's socio-economic interpretations of suffering and its causes, and it 
is from that standpoint I consider The Eightfold Path as a lesbian ethic. 

Right understanding "is the understanding of things as they are." 125 
Looking deeply into the true nature of things is right understanding. Things exist 
in themselves, and the practice of meditation helps to discover and encounter the 
reality of things. Being mindful and disciplined are acts of liberation and freedom 
which aren't about religion, ceremony or worship, but rather spiritual, moral, and 
intellectual practice. Right understanding is a practice which helps to inform me 



124 Ibid., 62. 

125 Ibid., Rahula, 49. 



64 

about sentient and insentient beings: all of the earth and its biosphere, animals, 

and all of the peoples of the world. Right understanding is not sexualizing or 

exploiting nature and women. The understanding of things as they are keeps me 

grounded in a paradigm that is rooted within an understanding of gendered space 

and geography, the feminization of poverty, and notion of multiple and diverse 

economies. 

Lesbians who practice right understanding may learn that we really aren't 

so essential, that we live co-dependently with the earth and all its inhabitants, and 

that looking deeply into the true nature of things is looking deeply into the true 

nature of one's own lesbianism. In her book, Lesbian Ethics: Toward New Value, 

Sarah Lucia Hoagland gives an example of what right understanding can mean 

for lesbians. Although Hoagland isn't Buddhist, her notion of lesbian ethics can 

apply to engaged Buddhism. She writes: 

For gaining understanding is another part of attending. 
Not only does attending enable the one who is attended 
at any given time, it empowers, enables, the one who 
attends. While a prerequisite for lesbian ethics is self- 
understanding, our understanding grows and develops 
through interacting with others. The one who attends 
is gaining understanding - understanding of other situations, 
understanding of different but essential perspectives, 
understanding of her self in relation to those perspectives, 
understanding of different energies. And she is also learn- 
ing to act in situations. Attending dispels ignorance. 126 

Right understanding dispels ignorance and helps make attending a viable, lesbian 

practice. It takes our autonomy a step further and brings it into the realm of what 

Hoagland establishes as "autokoenony" (auto, meaning self, and koinonia, 



126 Sarah Lucia Hoagland, Lesbian Ethics: Toward New Value (Palo Alto: Institute of 
Lesbian Studies, 1988), 138. 



65 

meaning community) which means "the self in community." 127 Hoagland argues 

that, 

An autokoenous being is one who is aware of her self as one among 
others with a community that forms her ground of be-ing, one who 
makes her decisions in consideration of her limitations as well as in 
consideration of the agendas and perceptions of others. She does not 
merge with others, nor does she estrange herself; she interacts with 
others in situations. 

Interaction, attending, and meditation are ways to achieve right understanding of 

things as they are. 

Right thought is the wisdom to know that attachment, hatred, and violence 
aren't means to liberation or freedom. Right thought can include detachment from 
heteronormatives, labor and monopoly capitalism, the cult of consumerism, or the 
Democratic and Republican parties. It can mean the difference in how lesbians 
die. If our minds produce hatred and violence, if our minds produce thoughts 
which keep us attached to our hatred or violence, how will we be able to die? 

Living fully within each moment, being mindful of our thoughts and bodies, 
our interactions with people, being present rather than absent in the past or 
future is a creative act. Practicing right thought can help us to not harbor ill 
feelings. It can help us resolve our conflicts and enjoy inner peace and worldly 
peace. Liberation and freedom can be expressed immediately if our thoughts are 
in order, if we experience truth and reality rationally and in the moment, there is 
little room left in our heads for hatred, violence, resentment or any other negative 
attachments we may try to keep as sacred and righteous, true and real. Lesbians 



127 Ibid., 145. 

128 Ibid, 145. 



66 

who practice right thought may be able to stay out of the closet at all times, may 
gain an enormous and continuous amount of creative, compassionate energy to 
do the necessary work to alleviate and end suffering. Lesbians can be leaders 
and allies in anti-racism and anti-xenophobia work, preserving our environment, 
and working for socio-economic justice around the globe. Right thought isn't 
apathy, complicity or complacency. Right thought is meditation in action. 

Right speech means not telling lies, not using abusive, violent language, 
not slandering or gossiping about individuals or groups of people, and not 
passively or silently participating in another person's malicious, impolite or rude 
speech. Right speech means speaking what you can verify as truth, not as 
hearsay which is generally laced with false accusations and ignorance. Right 
speech comes from right thought. It is a careful use of language and tongue 
which interacts with other human beings. Speech isn't about talking to yourself. 
Speech is about talking with other people. Careless, meaningless speech causes 
suffering. We must practice our lesbianism as if it matters. As Sarah Hoagland 
says, "Language and perceptual judgment are a matter of consensus in that 
certain judgments go unquestioned, held in place by all that surrounds them, from 
research to gossip. This core has no justification, and it does not justify." 129 
Lesbians should be in solidarity to end suffering by shifting from heterosexual 
politics to a different politics, the Middle Way, the way to emancipation, 
liberation, and freedom. Right speech also means right listening: listening to 
lesbians of color, Third World lesbians, and lesbians of different classes. This 



129 Ibid., 14. 



67 

has to become an ordinary, daily event, and right listening and speech can help 
develop the dialogue which must take place. 

Right action is inner peace and world peace. Lesbian morals and ethics 
can be practiced through right action. Being aware and mindful of our actions 
means not destroying the environment, destroying human or animal life, stealing, 
lying, or engaging in sexual misconduct. It means not being judgmental about 
people who may engage in these activities for whatever reason, but to show 
concern and compassion, to take the Middle Way and try to educate through 
grassroots organizations. It means not buying products which have been tested 
on animals, boycotting products and industries that ruin the environment. We are 
all interconnected in some way, shape, or form. We are accountable and 
responsible for and to people who steal or lie, murder or rape. There can be little 
inner peace and world peace if we believe that our apathy, complacency, and 
complicity are virtues. Sexual misconduct is acting in ways which harm or 
destroy yourself or another. One could use the slogan, "if in doubt, don't do it." 
Right action has nothing to do with following heterosexual morals or practices, 
their socio-religious myths and teachings. Lesbian sexuality and erotica is loving 
ourselves loving women. How we go about that is our own business and joy. 
Right action isn't practiced alone, it's practiced in relation with all of the other 
seven Paths which can help lesbians follow a pattern, a guideline for how to live 
ethical lives. 

Right livelihood is not making a living that harms others, yourself or the 
environment, manufacturing or selling weapons, poisonous chemicals and 



68 

pesticides, experimenting on or killing animals, or making or selling drugs and 
alcohol to people who are vulnerable. Right livelihood should encompass a 
sense of well-being, social development, stability, and sustainability. There 
should be a contribution to humanity and the earth. 

Many lesbians, women, and children are economically deprived, and the 
issues of class enter into the discussion. However, some lesbians can form 
grassroots movements, cooperatives, and other liberative economic structures to 
help themselves and each other establish right livelihoods. Right livelihood isn't 
self-righteousness. We do what we have to do to survive, and if it means not 
being able to follow right livelihood whether partially or completely, there isn't any 
room in engaged Buddhism for class prejudice or unrealistic ideals. 

Middle-class and wealthy First World white lesbian feminists need to stop 
dictating their privileged positions onto lesbians and women who may not have 
any choice except to take the jobs that may eventually harm others or the 
environment. Lesbians can be advocates or union organizers to help assure that 
other lesbians and women receive adequate wages, health insurance, vacation 
time, continuing education, spiritual security, and childcare. Lesbians can 
advocate for children around the globe who must work for the patriarchy and 
multinational corporations. The feminization of poverty is violence. My work as 
an artist and organic farmer is to bring a sense of well-being, social development, 
stability, and sustainability to lesbians, women and children who otherwise might 
not have those basic human rights. As E.F. Schumacher wrote 25 years ago in 
Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered: 



69 

It is in the light of both immediate experience and 
long-term prospects that the study of Buddhist 
economics could recommend even to those who believe 
that economic growth is more important than any 
spiritual or religious values. For it is not a 
question of choosing between "modern growth" and 
"traditional stagnation." It is a question of find- 
ing the right path of development, the Middle Way 
between materialistic heedlessness and traditionalist 

130 

immobility, in short, of finding "Right Livelihood." 
Right effort is the will and wisdom to go beyond good intentions. Right effort is 
the mindful act of being present with yourself and with others. This is critical 
analysis of one's motives, morals, and mentality. Practicing right effort is a state 
of mind, it means clearing the lesbian mind of the heterosexual cultural and 
societal constructs, and creating a new and just paradigm. Right effort is ego 
effort: letting go of ego attachments, letting go of ego, and letting go of the past. 
Yet, for lesbians, in particular lesbians of color, ego is something we have to be 
mindful of and nourish into health. We can't ask a woman or child whose ego has 
been battered and malnourished not to have an ego, that would be immoral. We 
can, however, ask that lesbians who practice right effort share their effort with 
others. 

Right mindfulness is being aware of your body and your feelings. Being 
mindful of ideas, thoughts, and things. Practicing mindfulness can help us to see, 
know, and understand ourselves which in turn gives us the ability to see, know, 
and understand other people, not in a relative way, but in a situated way. A 



130 E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered 
(HarperPerennial, 1973), 66. 



70 

situated knowledge, interconnected and dependent, a web, matrix, pattern, and 
language that is rooted in awareness. 

Right concentration is meditation on the realities of truth, compassion, and 
love. This is mental discipline, which is the way to all paths. There is no other 
way for me to process my life as a lesbian and Buddhist than to meditate and 
concentrate on disciplining and developing my mind. It's all I have to define who I 
am. My mind is my essence. The mind is the filter of life, and unless we keep it 
disciplined and aware and in right relation with others and the earth we will 
continue to suffer and cause suffering; freedom and liberation will be slow in 
coming. 

The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are my lesbian ethical, 
pastoral, and creative points of departure. They inform who I am at all times and 
how I should live and behave. There is tolerance and compassion, love, non- 
violence, and discipline. There is a daily spiritual practice without blind faith or 
praying to a god. There isn't shame or guilt associated with the Way or the Path. 
There isn't a finality, but rather a fluidity. How I practice Buddhism is a creative 
act, meditation in action, and engagement with my mind, in and with the world. 

Like other religions, Buddhism is entrenched within patriarchal habits of 
tradition. Societies have changed the shape of Buddhism greatly throughout its 
2,500 year history. The words of Buddha were/are reflective of socio-political and 
economic patterns rather than the exactness of Buddha's intentions (which are 
always open to interpretation and interpolations). In the West, engaged 
Buddhism has meant a change from traditional Eastern practices of Buddhism to 



71 

a more open, tolerant, feminist, and non-monastic leadership. There are many 
Euro-American women and feminists who practice Buddhism and/or have 
become ordained nuns. Yet, there is very little known about lesbian Buddhists. 
We don't appear to be writing books on the subject. I can find no substantial 
information from a lesbian Buddhist perspective. It could be that lesbians who 
practice Buddhism are more into practicing than writing, or they're attached to a 
particular teacher and lineage of Buddhism and aren't ready to publish yet. 
Perhaps lesbian Buddhists can't get published. There are several feminists and 
women Buddhists who have published their work and simply mention lesbian 
Buddhists, but there is no definitive work devoted to lesbians. 

Patriarchy runs thick in Buddhism, and it will take time to establish another 
Way, a Middle Way, in American Buddhism. Buddhism has not only been 
patriarchal, it has been primarily founded on heteronormatives. To get to the core 
of Buddhism, to the core of which lineage or sect of Buddhism to practice, is my 
quest as an unruly, Dharma dyke outlaw, who seeks refuge in the Buddha, 
Dharma, and Sangha in unconventional ways. As I stated earlier, my 
interpretation of Buddhism is grounded within my lesbian context. If I don't agree 
with an aspect of Buddhism I simply discard it. I reimagine and reinvent my 
Buddhism. Redefining Buddhism is a legitimate Buddhist quest for enlightenment 
and truth. To change the Dharma is to decenter heteronormatives and center a 
lesbian ethic. 



HOW WE LIVE IS HOW WE DIE: REIMAGINING OUR DEATH. 

The ultimate goal of Buddhism is buddhahood. 
In the 2,500 years since the Buddha's own 
enlightenment, countless methods have been 
elaborated to attain this goal. In the tantric 
view, one of the quickest ways to achieve 
enlightenment is to visualize that you have 
already achieved it. 131 

Richard J. Kohn, A Rite of Empowerment 

[Your life] dwells among the causes of death 
Like a lamp standing in a strong wind. 132 

Nagarjuna, Garland of Jewels 

Tantric Buddhism is an intense practice involving ritual, visualization, and 

meditation. Practitioners imagine that they are already fully enlightened Buddhas. 

The role of the teacher, and the relationship between the teacher and the student 

is an important factor in the visualization process, and years of discipline are 

required to achieve buddhahood. My interest in tantra is it's symbolic strength: 

that one can attain enlightenment through visualization and that it is a rite of 

empowerment. Visualizing and believing that I already am a lesbian Buddha and 

that I can and do attain enlightenment provides me with a sense of well-being and 

spiritual security. As Nagarjuna says, my life is like "a lamp standing in a strong 

wind," and how I live is how I will die. Contemplating death is a preparation and 

practice for how I will live today, because I may die today. Reimagining our death 

has everything to do with reimagining our genesis. How we live is how we die 

can be a mantra for lesbians. Lesbians don't live or die as men or heterosexuals, 

we live and die as lesbians. Our forms are reinvented and reimagined, multiple 



131 Richard J. Kohn, "A Rite of Empowerment" in Religions of Tibet in Practice, ed. 
Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 225. 

132 Ibid.. 437. 



72 



73 

and diverse. My transgendered genesis is also my transgendered death and 
dying: ambiguous, fluid, and multiple. Ambiguous, because the process of death 
and dying can have multiple meanings. Fluid, because the process of death and 
dying can shift and change shape rapidly. And multiple, because the process of 
death and dying can be complex, and shared by or involve others. Our genesis is 
our death, for at the moment of birth we begin to die. Lesbians can be sustained 
by our markings of multiple identities, which become our spiritual security. Who 
we are in our daily lives is our spirituality. Our spiritual security depends on our 
markings of multiple identities to make us whole spiritual beings. To be secure 
with who we are can be our daily spiritual practice. 

Contemplating and being mindful of death as if it were going to happen 
today is a step toward legitimizing our lesbian existence, experience, and 
empowerment. Whether a person believes in reincarnation or another spiritual 
or religious belief about birth and death, contemplating and being mindful of the 
process can be an empowering act. Visualizing our own deaths can help us to 
reimagine and reclaim our right to our lives and to our deaths. Being 
contemplative and mindful of death is an act of liberation. The Four Noble Truths 
and The Eightfold Path can be understood and practiced if we are able to claim 
our lives and our deaths as our own unique patterns, languages, forms, ethics, 
philosophies, and spiritualities. In his essay, Mindfulness of Death, Donald S. 
Lopez, Jr. explains the Tibetan Buddhist Geluk sect's traditions of viewing death 
which can be insightful for lesbians. Lopez states, "the contemplation of death is 
certain, the contemplation that the time of death is uncertain, and the 



74 

contemplation that at the time of death nothing helps except religious practice." 133 
For a lesbian, religious practice can vary from the transmundane to the mundane. 
For me, my lesbianism is as much a religious and spiritual statement and practice 
as is my Buddhism. My life is my religion, and that I will surely die factors into my 
view of how I live is how I will die. Reimagining my death as a factual reality, 
certain and uncertain, gives this butch Buddhist a clear sense of impermanence. 
Lesbians and women horticulturalists and agriculturalists have known about the 
impermanence of things since the beginning of our gendered forms and 
geographies. Impermanence also enhances my view of my autonomy and my 
relations within autokoenony. A death paradigm which is centered upon how an 
individual can be in relation with others, can love others, be responsible and 
accountable to and with others is a paradigm that can be practiced creatively and 
radically. 

My transgendered genesis and death are not male or heterosexual, they 
are lesbian. I practice my life as an art form: reimagining my form as a 
palimpsest, as markings of my symmetry, asymmetry, and spirituality. Chapter 
Three, then, is about how we can live creatively. The connection between 
horticulture and how we view the earth and its biosphere, our human forms, and 
art are all connected and interwoven into how we can live and die pastorally, 
ethically, and creatively. 



133 Ibid., Lopez, 430. 



CHAPTER THREE 

LIVING CREATIVELY 
LESBIANS AND ART. REIMAGINING OUR FORM 

PALIMPSESTS AND MARKINGS 
SYMMETRY, ASYMMETRY, AND SPIRITUALITY 



Every society which is alive and whole will 
have its own unique and distinct pattern language; 
further, that every individual in such a society 
will have a unique language, shared in part, but 
which as a totality is unique to the mind of the 
person who has it... the languages which people 
have today are so brutal, and so fragmented, that 
most people no longer have any language to speak 
at all - and what they do have is not based on 
human, or natural considerations. 

Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language 

"Crack the pelvis so she lies right. This is a 
mistake. When she dies you cannot repeat the act. 
The bones will not grow together again and the 
personality will not come back..." 

Jenny Holzer, installation 



I have been greatly influenced by the late architect, Christopher Alexander, 
and his book on architecture and people, A Pattern Language. I believe that 
within human nature there exists a deeply rooted archetypal language and 
knowledge which, if examined, through the arts (and horticulture) can help a 
lesbian construct her own value and meaning. Art is a necessary component of 
life. The creative process is the expression of collective and individual 
experiences. We need art to show us our past, to reflect upon, and to help define 



134 Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid 
Fiksdahl-King, and Shlomo Angel, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1977), xvi. 



75 



76 

who we are as individual lesbians and as a lesbian culture. Access to the arts 
and the creation of art should be a fundamental human right for all, not a privilege 
for a few. A society that allows art to be extracted from its schools, that allows 
censorship and the loss of state and federal funding, is a society in serious 
decline. This decline brings about a loss of humanity, spirituality, culture, and 
creative wisdom. From this loss mediocrity, ignorance, fascism, and violence 
become the norm. There is value and meaning in art. It affects not only lesbians' 
daily lives, but also our participation and contribution to history, and our historical 
perspective. Through the arts we can help to empower lesbians to learn about 
themselves as artists, to learn about other cultures, and to participate in the 
development of our own local, regional, and global cultural practices. Lesbians 
and art are about reimagining our form, our markings of symmetry and 
asymmetry, and our spirituality. 

Christopher Alexander believed that a pattern language is "archetypal, 
deeply rooted in the nature of things." 135 To construct a lesbian language and 
lesbian space that serves to identify an ethic, a philosophy, a form, and a 
spirituality within my foci of horticulture, Buddhism, and art, is to construct a 
lesbian ecology and a lesbian economics deeply rooted in the nature of things. 
Our pattern language is a palimpsest of form, the continual stripping away and 
refinishing of thoughts and acts: Inscribed. Rubbed smooth. Inscribed. Rubbed 
smooth. Yet ever so imperfectly, so that previous inscriptions remain visible. A 
lesbian language and space can be explained by using as an example a blend of 



135 Ibid., xvii. 



77 

Zen Buddhism and visual art. As a painter, the process involved in my work is 
very Zen: I make a mark, I stand back and observe what that mark represents; 
what it means. It is through an intense meditation with the work that I proceed. 
The question is always, how do I know the painting is done? When do I stop 
making marks? It is an inherent knowing. If I'm mindful - if every mark I make 
stands on its own, it is an entity in itself, whether it be a single mark or thousands 
of marks put together - then I will know when to stop making marks and let the 
painting stand on its own. Truth to materials, the dynamics or tensions between 
organic and geometric shapes, light and dark, or thick lines next to thin lines are 
all vital demarcations of mindfulness. In my daily living practice I carry these 
principles with me. Trying to be mindful of every move I make is my daily 
aesthetic and spiritual practice. Being present in and with who I am and with 
people I come in contact with is very important for my lesbian identity. This 
identity has everything to do with reimagining our genesis through art. 



THE VISUAL ARTS. SYMMETRY AND ASYMMETRY 

My work has been as a printmaker, painter, and mixed-media artist. I 
would describe my work as architectonic, abstract-expressionistic palimpsests 
and markings of who I am as a butch Buddhist. The visual art I most admire and 
am drawn to decenters the notions of fine art. To disrupt and create an 
asymmetry from symmetry and a symmetry from asymmetry is to accomplish a 
political and spiritual act of resistance. This, to me, is the job of a lesbian artist. 
The symmetry of art has been held in place by the hands of men and 



78 

heterosexuals who try to lodge their uniformity of structures and aesthetics within 

us all. At the same time they uphold an asymmetry of politics by denying certain 

groups and individuals their creative say. One way lesbian visual artists can 

resist, disrupt, and create is to present and project our forms into heterosexual 

society and culture. Our gendered and sexual spaces warrant lesbian and 

heterosexual attention. They warrant our own attention as geographical 

markings, iconographic artifacts, and pictorial surveys and landscapes of our 

intentional embodiment. Our bodies of sexuality; diverse, multiple, and fluid serve 

as monuments. We inhabit space. 

...In an instant, a freeze-frame, a lesbian is 
occupying space as it occupies her. Space teems 
with possibilities, positions, intersections, 
passages, detours, u-turns, dead-ends, and one- 



way streets; it is never still. 136 



"Sally" 



Lesbian art is spatial and political. Our psychosexual ecologies are visual 
reminders of our alterity, gestures, stance, clothing, and commentary. 

During the Renaissance when art became "Art," shifting away from 
symbolic expressions of society and culture, males dominated the content and 
technical forms of art. Male art was fine art, the truest and most beautiful 
expressions of male culture, which meant all culture. According to an elite class 
of Europeans, European art became the highest form of expression by which all 
art was gauged. Aesthetics and taste were white male perceptions and 



136 David Bell, "One -Handed Geographies: An Archeology of Public Sex" in Queers in 
Space: Communities, Public Places, Sites of Resistance, eds. Gordon Brent Ingram, Anne Marie 
Bouthillete and Yolanda Retter (Seattle: Bay Press, 1997), 84. 



79 

prerogatives of how the invention of fine art became the standard for all art, for all 
time. 

Until recently art from other cultures was ignored and neglected, except 
when European males appropriated and incorporated it into their own work. 
Lesbians and women artists were missing from the pages of art history and 
critical analysis. Their work was considered feminine, inconsistent, and inferior. 
Today, as I scan the art history books, I notice the continued distancing between 
male and female representation. Certainly within my view of what art means the 
representation from lesbians is stark. 

The British lesbian painter, Sadie Lee, paints her lesbian bias in Bona 
Lisa, an oil on board painted in 1992. Bona Lisa is the Mona Lisa in butch drag. 
With short hair and a man's tailored suit on, Bona Lisa sits before the viewer as a 
regular, everyday lesbian human, just like the rest of us are. She doesn't look 
male, nor does she pretend to be. Bona Lisa is a parody of Mona Lisa and 
Leonardo da Vinci's view of the body politic. After all, da Vinci is rumored to have 
been homosexual, and the same can be said for the Mona Lisa: she doesn't look 
female, nor does she pretend to be. Lee is one of the few out lesbian visual 
artists whose work is of lesbian content and can be found in a dozen or more art 
books. 

Barbara Kruger, whose medium is photography, organizes her work within 
a framework of social and cultural displays of our consumerist mediocrity. One 
such photo, a grainy, black and white poster of a hand holding a red and white 
card which reads: I SHOP THEREFORE I AM. This photo brings home a wide 



80 

range of socio-economic issues which impact and define our First World, middle- 
class mentality which filters through to Third World societies and economies. 
That a female artist has produced this work is a message to lesbians and women 
to rethink I SHOP THEREFORE I AM as serious social commentary rather than a 
bumpersticker cliche. Another Kruger photo is of a hooded man engulfed in a 
shadow with his index finger to his lips. Bold white letters read: YOUR 
COMFORT IS MY SILENCE. Kruger's use of bare, raw words are aesthetically 
and morally powerful messages to the masses. 

The photos of Jeanne Dunning, whose work Monique Wittig admires, are 
studies of the physicalities of people and things. Close-ups of bodyscapes titled, 
Crack and Hole, reveal an analysis of anatomy which mark landscapes of skin 
and parts, partial and situated. How else should we view ourselves? As whole 
and universal? That was Leonardo's context with the Mona Lisa, not ours. The 
plurality of our skin and body parts, the shape and texture, form and function are 
fluid and illusive. As British lesbian author, Jeannette Winterson, writes, "Matter, 
that thing the most solid and the well-known, which you are holding in your hands 
and which makes up your body, is now known to be mostly empty space. Empty 
space and points of light. What does this have to say about the reality of the 
world?" 13 Sometimes the question is the answer, and Dunning's work helps 
frame both within a symmetrical and asymmetrical paradigm. 

Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, is an important source for white lesbians, 
lesbians of color, and women of color. Kahlo's work is intensely personal, yet 



137 Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (New York: Vintage, 1989), ml 



81 

universal in it's scope. The self-portraits are stories of her physical and emotional 
suffering, her vital strength, and caving in to the norms. Kahlo decentered, 
disrupted, and warped the notions of femaleness, silence, and proper behavior. 
Her paintings are creations and re-inventions of her body and spirituality in 
process. What touches us most about her work is the content of inner and 
worldly struggles to exist; the story of all lesbians and women. 

Lesbians of color and women of color who are visual artists are generally 
excluded from the glossy art magazines and coffee table art books. We may only 
gain access to their work through local and regional art shows in galleries, 
studios, or coffee houses. The white criteria and politics surrounding the visual 
arts can be a clique of incestuous artists, gallery owners, and jurors feeding off of 
each other. Promoting certain types of art from certain types of artists is 
aesthetic fascism. Yet, I too, am drawn to certain artists and their work. We can't 
dictate where our eyes will focus, or what will capture a visual moment or a longer 
look. As visual artists, we can't dictate what will filter in through our retina, 
become embedded in our minds, and come out at the end of a brushstroke or roll 
of film. That I'm a white lesbian artist unaware of most of the lesbians of color 
and women of color visual artists isn't surprising. 

Within my rural, socio-economic context I often don't have access to 
galleries, museums or coffee houses. I have to view art from the pages of those 
glossy art magazines, from those oversized coffee table art books, and from the 
art history books, and always with my library card not a credit card in hand. That 
so many female visual artists cannot get their work shown or can't afford to buy 



82 

materials becomes a vicious cycle. It can take years for an artist to have enough 

work to show and enough money to photograph the work, assemble it in a 

portfolio and mail it to galleries. Access to the arts, resources, and materials can 

be unevenly dispersed. Most Third World countries have been stripped of their 

art and artifacts which are housed in First World museums and wealthy 

livingrooms. Some people have to be retaught their indigenous art and 

architecture which is sold to tourists and galleries. This asymmetry is designed to 

prevent the majority of the peoples from retaining their gendered and ethnic 

spaces of creativity and spirituality, and their economic and political stability 

through the arts, so that a minority of rich people can have the market on art. 

By reimagining our lesbian form we can develop a deeply rooted language, 

one which isn't brutal or fragmented, but at peace with its multiplicity and diversity 

as a whole way of being. Our symmetry is situated among the asymmetry and 

our asymmetry is situated among the symmetry. In Borderlands/La Frontera The 

New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua gives a Chicana lesbian perspective: 

...Don't give me your lukewarm gods. What I want 
is an accounting with all three cultures - white, 
Mexican, Indian. I want the freedom to carve and 
chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with 
ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails. 
And if going home is denied me then I will have 
to stand and claim my own space, making a new 
culture - una cultura mestiza - with my own lum- 
ber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist 
architecture. 



138 Ibid., Anzaldua, 22. 



83 

Anzaldua's language propels us into a space of palimpsests and markings, hybrid 
and queer. What art does for lesbians is determine and signify their autonomy, 
ambiguity, and anchor to a process of place. 

In 1980, at the age of 14, Daphne Scholinski was diagnosed with Gender 
Identity Disorder. She spent four years in a mental institution because her 
gender identification was deemed unfit and abnormal by medical and 
psychological experts enforcing compulsory heterosexuality. Scholinski failed to 
behave appropriately by refusing to wear dresses, make-up, and curl her hair. 
During her incarceration she suffered a great deal at the hands of her 
psychiatrists who forced her to physically change her appearance. Today, at the 
age of 31 , Scholinski is a painter. On canvas she works-out her years in the 

139 

institution as a catharsis for and of sanity, and her true gendered identity. 
Gender Identity Disorder is still invoked and used to diagnose and oppress Queer 
teenagers. Human and civil rights are gender rights. I ask that all lesbian artists 
become our youth's advocates and allies, teaching and speaking in schools and 
on the streets. 

The visual artists I have used as examples are shifting art from the 
patriarchal, heterosexual view to another space. The presence of lesbians in this 
shifting is scarce. Our invisibility and economic struggle is very much a part of 
who we are as we try to reimagine our form. But as I cited earlier, Christopher 
Alexander has written: "Every society which is alive and whole will have its own 
unique and distinct pattern language." Within our geographies and territories of 



139 "Out in Front," Curve (January 1998): 6. 



84 

lesbian space, whether rural or urban, we are becoming aware of our emerging 

transgendered or queer landscapes. And for a cross-dressing butch lesbian, 

landscapes include bodyscapes. Our art is becoming public art. Public spaces, 

architecture, parks, streets, and even rural spaces are reflecting the influences of 

lesbianism. Jean-Ulrick Desert writes about queers and aesthetics in his essay, 

Queer Space: 

If it were generally known (and accepted) that a significant number of 
cultural contributors to this society have been and are queer, then 
queers and others alike might clearly see through the current blur of 
complicit secrecy - this vain closeting of space and landscape. This 
knowledge might assist in a history of sensibilities, vocabularies, and 
mappings from Sappho to Roland Barthes. How oddly universal and 
yet inclusively queer are such literary and philosophical observations, 
which are integrated into heteronormative narratives of place. 140 

Desert goes on to confirm my argument for a lesbian language when he identifies 

"Language as a skin; I rub my language against the Same and the Other. It is as 

if my body has language without words." 141 Our palimpsests and markings are 

vital lesbian signifiers of our language in relation with others. They stamp our 

culture, history, and heritage as a politics of difference and different politics. 

Rural lesbians who are horticulturalists and agriculturalists make their own 

significant contribution to the landscape and lesbianscape. 

In 1938, Lewis Mumford, United States social philosopher and architectural 

critic wrote, "Despite its bludgeoning absolutions, its vicious wars, the Twentieth 

Century may yet be known as the age of sexual efflorescence... the home, the 



140 Jean-Ulrick Desert, "Queer Space" in Queers in Space: Communities, Public Places, 
Sites of Resistance, eds. Gordon Brent Ingram, Anne Marie Bouthillete and Yolanda Retter 
(Seattle. Bay Press, 1997), 24. 

141 Ibid., 24. 



85 



garden, the park, must be planned for lovers and love-making: this is an essential 

aspect of an environment designed for human growth." 142 Reimagining our 

lesbian form is no less than reimagining heterosexual form. As we emerge into 

the Twenty-First Century we bring with us our desires to be seen as whole human 

beings functioning within society with our minds and bodies out of the closets. To 

be classed as sexual deviants is to be seriously undermined and marginalized 

outside of the ecologies and environments which we all must share. In 

"Marginality and the Landscapes of Erotic Alien(n)ations", Gordon Brent Ingram 

argues that, 

an erotic marginality leads to an internalized and environmental 
alienation, and this constitutes the core, the queemess, the queasy 
antipoden, of "queer space." Such synergies provide key clues to the 
nature of the extremes of the queer space gradients - exceptional 
starkness replicated in warehouse aesthetics, contrasted with 
exceptional richness and complexity rivaling the decorum of royal 
courts. 143 

Lesbian creativity, our art, and our form radically resist the notions of 

heterosexual dichotomies of public and private space. 144 Whatever medium of 

art or form we create heterosexuals try to make it private. Meanwhile their art 

and form is made public for all to see. Ingram goes on to state: 

A queerscape is larger than a closet and usually involves outdoor 
and unbuilt landscapes, but is smaller and more locality-specific 
than broader zones of queer "geopolitics" - ones that are 
becoming increasingly merged and defined more in terms of 
language and access to technology since the invention and 
marketing of cyberspace. A queerscape is a locality of contests 
between the domination of heteronormative constructions of 



142 Ibid., 27. 

143 Gordon Brent Ingram, "Marginality and the Landscapes of Erotic Alien(n)ations," in 
Queers in Space: Communities, Public Places, Sites of Resistance, eds. Gordon Brent Ingram, 
Anne Marie Bouthillete and Yolanda Retter (Seattle: Bay Press, 1997), 29-30. 

144 Ibid., 31. 



86 

identities... along with the acts that are considered acceptable 
and less "socially acceptable" forms of consensual contact. 145 

Lesbian grassroots activism is one way to gain greater visibility and reassure 

ourselves and heterosociety we do indeed exist and refuse to be rendered 

invisible. Collective visibility for lesbians is gender and sexual health on display. 

Reimagining our form through art and other creative acts serves to decenter, 

disorient, and reconstruct the heteromemory. 146 Donna Haraway's notion of 

situated knowledge is an alternative to the limitations of heteronormatives. 

Situating, localizing, and designing site-specific spaces, languages, and forms 

entitles lesbians to proceed with, as Haraway was cited early, "the ability partially 

to translate knowledges among very different - and power-differentiated - 

communities." 

Lesbian activism is living creatively, living with the environment as 

caretakers of the earth and its biosphere, living as horticulturalists and 

agriculturalists, and living as artists. Our lesbian language and space are 

palimpsests and markings of our symmetry, asymmetry, and our spirituality within 

heterosociety. 



145 Ibid, 31-32. 

146 Ibid, 42. 



CONCLUSION 



As stated in the beginning of the paper, "Radical lesbianism is not a 
'sexual preference' or only 'liking to live with women*. It is a decisive political 
choice which is implicit in the analysis of sex class relations based on exploitation 
and oppression." Situated within a radical lesbian feminist context, my thesis has 
decentered and resisted heterosexual politics and the standard definition of 
gender and sex. I have argued that there are gendered pluralities: lesbian, gay, 
bi-gender, bi-sexual, transsexual, intersexual, transgender, drag queens, drag 
kings, cross-dressers, masculine women, bearded women, androgynes, and a 
multitude of others who identify as diversely transgendered or queer. I asked that 
we consider reimagining a transgender genesis, that we write and speak a 
language that marks us simultaneously "masculine" and "feminine"; a neutral 
language we can all bear to speak and hear. 

I have claimed my sensuous butch lesbianism as a demarcation from the 
norms of heterosociety which try to deny my right to openly love other lesbians 
and women. With every breath I take I live my lesbianism. I'm tough, I have 
guts, and I love women. Lesbians who understand the significance of being 
transgender, ambiguous, and fluid, rather than being what the social and cultural 
constructs of heterosexuals have imprinted upon us, might come to understand 
the full implications of their lives. As a people we must record and preserve our 
heritage, culture, and traditions. 



87 



88 

The standard for just about everything has been invented from the 
monolithic, single form and function of the male body. There is a middle, a third, 
fourth and other combinations of multiple significant ways of being. How varying 
and creative our economies and politics could be if viewed from a more 
transgendered perspective, such as: organic farming, engaged Buddhism, 
grassroots activism, and Queer/lesbian art. As I stated in the introduction, the 
environment is losing its diversity and health, agribusiness is replacing the many 
small, family farms, lesbians and women are losing their gendered spaces and 
land, and our art, architecture and aesthetic values are being undermined by 
multi-national corporations and middle-class mediocrity. 

Engaged Buddhism is an important aspect of my thesis. I'm an engaged 
Buddhist because I practice Buddhism as a sustainable socio-political, spiritual, 
economic, ecological, and lesbian liberation movement. The Four Noble Truths 
and The Eightfold Path speak to my reasoning and ethics. How I view death and 
life through this lesbian lens is directly influenced by various Buddhist 
philosophies and practices. 

It is my contention that heteronormative by-products can be both 
patriarchal and matriarchal projections of a socio-religious myth which has served 
to privilege heterosexuals and their politics. By reimagining our lesbian genesis, 
we can begin to radically resist heterosexual politics and other heteronormative 
by-products which marginalize, exclude, and/or weaken us visibly and audibly. 
The heterosexuals' worship of, and obedience to, their socio-economic 
institutions, theories, and practices have defined and categorized human beings 



89 

into "them and those," and the "other." Treating human beings as abstract 
objects, paved the way to do so with the earth and its biosphere. The biosphere, 
its sentient and insentient beings, have been viewed as the "other," as 
commodities to be exploited. Resisting and shifting away from the heteronormal 
model is how lesbians can reimagine our genesis, form, and spirituality, and 
develop our own language and space. 

I called into question the Oedipus complex as brought forth by Luce 
Irigaray and Monique Wittig. They have written a new language, which makes 
the connection between philosophy and politics, which in turn makes language a 
process rather than a structure. Wittig puts forth the notion that a feminist is one 
who is in solidarity with women, as advocates and allies within particular socio- 
economic class, and that their purpose is to get rid of their classification. This 
would mean the collapse of the socio-economic system of heterosexuality. 

I have remained grounded within a particular realm of thought and 
experience, which helps me to hear and see the other person, to realize and feel 
our interconnection and to celebrate our separateness as diverse pieces in a 
puzzle. Donna Haraway introduced this as situated knowledge. It can be the 
distinguishing factor in establishing our autonomy within Sarah Hoagland's notion 
of autokoenony, which can help lesbians function as responsible and accountable 
individuals within a community. 

Neolithic and Paleolithic females developed knowledge and wisdom as 
inventors and scientists, horticulturalists and agriculturalists, and as Maria Mies 
argues, the inventors of the first production-society. Mies argues that males can't 



90 

experience their bodies in the same way that females can, and that male bodily 
productivity can't appear as productive without tools. "Without tools man is no 
MAN." Luce Irigaray made the connection between economies and female 
bodies. Our sexuality is multiple, plural, and diverse, which is a reflection on how 
we live. 

Our beginning form as lesbians was denied. I used Native American Two- 
Spirit people as an example of how lesbians and the transgendered have been 
viewed as fully embodied humans with a deeply rooted connection to and with 
their communities. Two-Spirits were allowed to transgress biological, 
sociological, cultural, and spiritual forms and norms of their tribes. Their genesis 
existed as a way of being, and a way of being complete, diverse, multiple, and 
fluid. 

Within the paradigm of my thesis I kept a perspective on lesbians and 
women of color and Third World lesbians and women as people who are losing 
their gendered knowledges and spaces. The hope is that these women will be 
looked to as contributors of science and technology, horticulture and agriculture, 
and who are deserving of their own land, traditions and cultures, spaces and 
economies. First World lesbians can and must be in solidarity with Third World 
lesbians and women, serving as advocates and allies in their socio-economic and 
political quest to provide themselves and their families with a proper diet and 
medical care. First World lesbians can eat lower on the food chain and eat a 
mono-diet so that others may have enough to eat also, and they can boycott 
luxury products and corporations that exploit Third World women. 



91 

What marks the presence of rural Lesbians and women is their situated, 
yet diverse and multiple knowledge. Agriculture and horticulture are about 
environmental history, applied technology, and socio-political stability. Luce 
Irigaray's connection between bodies and economics is brought forth in the 
example of the sub-Saharan women. This is helpful in constructing lesbian's 
economics and ecological practices. 

Very little has changed concerning land reform for African-Americans and 
Chicanos. Yet, African-American and Chicana lesbians and women have found a 
great deal of their spiritual security in their own gardens. The garden is the life 
force that provides these women with a sense of well-being and pride as co- 
creators with nature. Our connection with the earth and to the land dignifies our 
human presence. And reimagining our genesis must be done in recognition of 
other's beginnings and their connection with the land. 

Reimagining our genesis can begin by reconnecting with the land and 
using organic, sustainable principles and practices. As I cited Nicholas Lampkin 
in Chapter One concerning organic agriculture, it's, "genuinely part of a whole 
philosophy that encompasses education, art, nutrition and religion, as well as 
agriculture." Lesbians and women have been practicing sustainable organic and 
biodynamic gardening, horticulture, and agriculture for centuries. As I stated in 
Chapter One, it would have never occurred to Native American lesbians and 
women to not practice organic or biodynamic systems. Our knowledge is situated 
within our gendered spaces, economies, race, class, and geographies. Because 
of our diversity and multiplicity, a natural structure and marking of our bodies and 



92 

the spaces we inhabit, we have been able to develop an archetypal language that 
produces ecologically sustained polycultures, and multiple, diverse economies 
and socio-political systems. 

I used Helen and Scott Nearing as examples of how to live the good life, 
and as examples of radical resistors of heteronormatives and the by-product: 
capitalism. They systematically and conscientiously defined an ethic, a space, 
and an economy based on the practices and principles of organic, ecological 
homesteading. The Nearings help to illustrate my statement that how we feed 
ourselves is how we view nature and our bodies. Their lives and practices can 
provide lesbians with a sense of well-being and socio-economic stability. 

The multiplicity, diversity, and fluidity of Buddhism is a link to my lesbian 
time and space. As I said, being Buddhist has the same meaning for me as being 
lesbian. Shakyamuni taught that reality can never be reduced to or through 
human thought or language. Individuals are to test and verify the truth of the 
Dharma, either through direct experiences or through reading Buddhist texts and 
scriptures. Therefore, how I interpret The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold 
Path is defined from my radical butch lesbian feminist engaged Buddhist 
perspective. 

In keeping with Buddhism and a lesbian ethic, my work as an artist and 
organic farmer is to bring a sense of well-being, social development, stability, and 
sustainability to lesbians, women, and children who otherwise might not have 
basic human rights. I have given examples of how lesbian visual artists can 
resist, disrupt, and create by presenting and projecting our forms into 



93 

heterosexual society and culture. Our gendered and sexual spaces warrant 
lesbian and heterosexual attention. They warrant our own attention as 
geographical markings, iconographic artifacts, and pictorial surveys and 
landscapes of our intentional embodiment. By reimagining our lesbian form we 
can begin to know a deeply rooted language. A language which isn't brutal or 
fragmented, but at peace with its multiplicity and diversity as a whole way of 
being. 

As cited in Chapter Three, Gloria Anzaldua gives an important Chicana 
lesbian perspective when she writes, "I will have to stand and claim my own 
space, making a new culture - una cultura mestiza - with my own lumber, my own 
bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture." Anzaldua's language 
propels us into a space of palimpsests and markings, hybrid and queer. Our 
palimpsests and markings are vital lesbian signifiers of our language in relation 
with others. And for rural lesbians who are horticulturalists and agriculturalists it 
signifies our contribution to the landscape and lesbianscape, claiming our new 
space, our new culture, and our new lesbian architecture. 

Lesbian grassroots activism is one way to gain greater visibility and 
reassure ourselves and heterosociety we do indeed exist and refuse to be 
rendered invisible. Collective visibility for lesbians is gender and sexual health on 
display. Reimagining our form through art, horticulture, and other creative acts 
serves to decenter heteronormatives. Reimagining our genesis is acknowledging 
that we have no idea how many horticulturalists, agriculturalists, artists, 
architects, inventors of tools and food technology were lesbians. But we do know 



94 

that we have been on earth, everywhere, since the beginning of human form. We 
exist now, and we existed then. We really aren't invisible. 



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